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Linus7
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« on: August 11, 2003, 01:18:03 PM »

There was an interesting thread (now closed) over on the Orthodox-Catholic discussion forum regarding an individual who expressed a desire to convert to the Orthodox faith and then changed his mind and decided to remain Roman Catholic.

What made the thread interesting to me was the issue of readiness to convert.

When is someone ready to become Orthodox?

I have my own ideas but will wait for others to comment.

I hope this thread will spark some lively discussion of this issue.
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2003, 03:23:13 PM »

In my oppinion, when they've been taught the basics of the Orthodox faith, including parts commonly objected to, they've talked about anything they aren't sure they can completely accept until they do accept it, they trust that anything new they learn that the Church teaches they'll be ready to accept trusting in the Church, they are willing to do their best to live a Christian life, and their priest sees that they've done this and are ready.
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2003, 03:44:38 PM »


Being a software developer --  I think that it should be a more formal thing in multiple steps as a general rule:

1) Registering with the Priest as a catechumen

2) Attending classes or complete assigned readings/study of an approved curriculum of the diocese.

3) Attend liturgy at least once a month (if possible)

4) After 3 months, meet with the priest for an hour to discuss issues.

5) Then after 6 months of adhering to the above, I think that the person should then be accepted.

I just think that the person should be sure and should understand the faith before going forward.

For myself, my priest kept me waiting for 6 months to make sure. He wanted to make sure that I was converting for ME and not my wife's family.
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2003, 11:12:19 PM »

I think those are good answers.

Orthodox Evangelism is an interesting thing, for one thing because it doesn't seem to be done very much, and for another because it seems to discourage quick conversions. It is a learning process and takes time.

Such a process is not what we see in the New Testament, however. Don't get me wrong: I am not criticizing the Church. I am merely making an observation. In the Book of Acts we see apostolic preaching, mass conversions, and seemingly nearly immediate mass baptisms. Doesn't sound very Orthodox, though!

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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2003, 02:37:25 AM »

No offense Linus, but the New Testament converts were either Jews who were already waiting for their Messiah, former pagans who now held Jewish beliefs, or pagans formerly holding quite different beliefs. For many Jews it would have been like a light going off in their head as they recognised that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they were waiting for. In a sense, they weren't even converted since it was the fulfillment of what they already believed.

The Devil has been quite busy since then muddying the waters by sowing his own "form" of christianity so that the true faith would not stand out quite so dramatically. You want to keep people from finding the genuine article? Plant lots of similiar looking counterfeits all around it.

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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2003, 09:22:41 AM »

I think those are good answers.

Orthodox Evangelism is an interesting thing, for one thing because it doesn't seem to be done very much, and for another because it seems to discourage quick conversions. It is a learning process and takes time.

Such a process is not what we see in the New Testament, however. Don't get me wrong: I am not criticizing the Church. I am merely making an observation. In the Book of Acts we see apostolic preaching, mass conversions, and seemingly nearly immediate mass baptisms. Doesn't sound very Orthodox, though!



Linus, I was discussing this very thing with my wife last night.  I had just finished Clark Carlton's THE WAY and have started DANCING ALONE by Frank Schaeffer.  My wife asked specifically how the Orthodox are with evangelism, since the Gospel is something we shouldn't keep to ourselves.  I mentioned that Carlton wrote at one point in his book WTTE that his evangelistic impulse hasn't been dampened since converting but is rather somehow fulfilled or enhanced (IIRC).  At any rate, she did bring up a good point.  It seems that I have seen books (or videos) either at the Conciliar press website or the Regina Orthodox press website regarding Orthodox evangelism.  Anyone know what I'm talking about?
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2003, 11:45:13 AM »

No offense Linus, but the New Testament converts were either Jews who were already waiting for their Messiah, former pagans who now held Jewish beliefs, or pagans formerly holding quite different beliefs. For many Jews it would have been like a light going off in their head as they recognised that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they were waiting for. In a sense, they weren't even converted since it was the fulfillment of what they already believed.

The Devil has been quite busy since then muddying the waters by sowing his own "form" of christianity so that the true faith would not stand out quite so dramatically. You want to keep people from finding the genuine article? Plant lots of similiar looking counterfeits all around it.

John

No offense either, John, but the religious waters couldn't be much muddier than they were in the 1st century. All sorts of religions were popular and accepted in the Roman Empire of that period, syncretism was the rule rather than the exception, and very soon new "flavors" of Christianity began to appear. Dying-and-rising gods were a dime-a-dozen. If religious confusion is grounds for a long catechumenate, then the 1st century should have had one of the longest.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing for Campus Crusade-style instant (and superficial) conversions. I think a potential convert should understand the faith. I am just wondering how the Apostles accomplished what they did without the lengthy catechumenates we see later in Church history and today.

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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2003, 01:15:19 PM »

Time for the Anglican to be contrarian again......

I'll start by remarking that the active posters here are an atypical bunch-- myself included. The fact that we can get into a disquisition on exactly why concelebration is more of a problem in ecclesiology than receiving outside one's church shows that our relationship to our faith is out of the ordinary-- most people, in any church, wouldn't care, and a lot of the rest wouldn't see that there could be a difference.

Plenty of people are brought into churches for no particular reason at all of their own. THey are called children. The expectation is that they will grow in the stature of their faith and learn the ways of their church. I do not see why the same cannot happen for adults. This is why I would disagree that marrying into the faith is, of itself, a bad idea. Mixed marriages are difficult, and they are another matter. But if someone converts for love, is this not the opening to instruction and to an improvement of faith?

The problem case is people like us: people who are theologically and liturgically aware in their own churches. The danger for us is that the reasons which take us into a church have the potential to take us right back out.
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2003, 01:42:18 PM »

Some very good points, Keble!
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2003, 02:26:05 PM »

DT:

Please check out www.ocmc.org and the writings of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania on Mission.

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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2003, 04:18:14 PM »

Children are brought into the Church iwth no knowledge of the faith, and raised into the faith.  An adult can't be brought into the Church in ignorance of the faith, or they'll be believing something else, not believing nothing like a child.  Someone doesn't have to know everything or be a geek like us to enter the Church, but they have to accept the basics of the faith firts, and go over with their priest the stuff people commonly object to.  If a person enters the Church because of upcoming marriage and learns the faith first and accepts it that's great, there's nothing wrong with that.  But if they convert just to get married while still remaining Protestant or Catholic or agnostic or whatever in their hearts, that's a problem.  

I know I held a lot of wrong concepts when I entered the Church, and I'm slowly learning more and more, and that's fine.  I know people who didn't know lots of details when they converted.  But the all went over the basics and accepted the Sacraments, the authority of the Church, etc before entering.
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2003, 04:55:02 PM »

Anastasios,

Thanks for the link.  I'll have to get my wife to watch that video.  Smiley

DT
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2003, 05:25:54 PM »

Children are brought into the Church iwth no knowledge of the faith, and raised into the faith.  An adult can't be brought into the Church in ignorance of the faith, or they'll be believing something else, not believing nothing like a child.  Someone doesn't have to know everything or be a geek like us to enter the Church, but they have to accept the basics of the faith first, and go over with their priest the stuff people commonly object to.  If a person enters the Church because of upcoming marriage and learns the faith first and accepts it that's great, there's nothing wrong with that.  But if they convert just to get married while still remaining Protestant or Catholic or agnostic or whatever in their hearts, that's a problem.  

This relates back to my observation as to the unusual focus of those in this group. We here are for the most part people the intensity of whose focus on religion makes conversion a more difficult process. For instance, my awareness of Anglican versus Orthodox attitude and doctrine and principle forces me to make the choice very explicitly; I must at least give up Anglican principles where they contradict Orthodoxy. (That in turn leads to a bunch of other issues, but I'll save that digression for another time.)

The problem runs the other way too. People get driven forth from denominations when they find themselves in conflict with what the preacher says. Or they become dissenters. But on the other hand, there are plenty of people whose faith truly is simple; that is, theological distinctions between churches are large lost on them. It seems foolish to turn people away when they do not express a positive attachment to theological issues.
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2003, 09:31:58 PM »


The problem runs the other way too. People get driven forth from denominations when they find themselves in conflict with what the preacher says. Or they become dissenters. But on the other hand, there are plenty of people whose faith truly is simple; that is, theological distinctions between churches are large lost on them. It seems foolish to turn people away when they do not express a positive attachment to theological issues.


That's fine, as long as they trust the Church, and aren't holding the views of another sect they're not going to be prevented.  But if an Evangelical for example decides to convert, even if not for intellectual reasons, they can't enter the Church & personally continue to have an essentially evangelical faith.  So there has to be a period of learning before they're ready to embrase the Church, they have to come to trust that the Church is right, or they shouldn't enter the Church while having other oppinions & still holding themselves as the ultimate decider of what's right rather than submitting themselves to her authority.  If someone isn't able to or interested in grasping the finer points of the faith, they still need to learn the basics, they still need to know how to worthily partake of the Sacraments, how to live a Christian life, they need to have the basics down, and then it's up to their priest to decide if they're ready.  We can't have people walking in off the street, saying they believe in Christ, and Baptising them if they hold view incompatable with Orthodoxy, first they have to learn the basics and agree.

When a child is Baptised thier parents make their vows for them.  Their parents should have a certain understanding of what it all means first.  If an adult is baptised they should have the same understanding for themselves since they're taking their vows themselves.
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2003, 09:40:27 PM »


What is the absolute minimum that a person must know and accept to become a convert? Has anyone thought of that? The Nicene Creed?

We have the New Testament examples I mentioned of mass or group conversions and baptisms without lengthy catechesis.

I also wonder how Sts. Cyril and Methodius handled their work among the Slavs. Did they make catechumens out of the pagans for six months to a year before bringing them into the Church?

How did Sts. Augustine and Patrick handle their respective groups of barbarians (the Anglo-Saxons and the Irish)? Did St. Boniface subject the Germans to a lengthy catechumenate before cutting down the Donar Oak?
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« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2003, 09:23:47 AM »

I think the Apostles did teach the basics of the faith, not over months, but they certainly talked about the faith for some time before the Baptisms.  In St. Paul's epistle's he says to keep everything they've received from him whether by word or letter.  So it seems like he taught them the basics before baptism, and afterwards he's writting to continue their education.

In my Church we don't bother with the form catechism program any more because of the low volume of converts.  I was never a form catecumen.  I just went & talked with my priest until we were both satisfied that I was ready, and then he baptised me.  For me that took about 8 months, but for a friend of mine who wasn't set in another tradition beforehand like me, and who could spare more time to talk to our priest more frequently, it only took about 2 months.  It took him some time to sort out the differences & get rid of the wrong elements of his United upbringing.  The people in the NT didn't have any wrong Christian teachings, they were receiving Christianity as a new thing, so there were none of these little details to get into.  So it seems to make sense that it took less time, and they could be Baptised after the basics of Christianity were explained to them, perhaps even in only a day's preaching.  Later, when there was a lot of disputing in Christianity, there was more time needed to teach.  Also, we see that the early Church fell into a lot of errors, which the Apostles wrote epistles & viisted to correct.  Later when the Church was more established, there was no need for the bishops to baptise quickly and move on as St. Paul and the others did, it was possible to take more time and teach more fully to avoid these problems to begin with, so that's what happened.  Now there's not the big controversies in the Church, it's obivous where Orthodoxy is, and there aren't Arians and Nestorians running around claiming to be the Orthodox Church, so it's a little easier and it's not so necessary to have long and formal periods of catechisis.
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« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2003, 12:32:07 PM »

Now there's not the big controversies in the Church, it's obivous where Orthodoxy is, and there aren't Arians and Nestorians running around claiming to be the Orthodox Church, so it's a little easier and it's not so necessary to have long and formal periods of catechisis.

Well, I wouldn't go that far  - it's a different kind of confusion and controversies now.
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« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2003, 12:37:08 PM »

While I agree with most of what you wrote, Jonathan, I do disagree with the part about the people of the Apostles' time not having religious misconceptions that would interfere with their understanding of Christianity. You are right that for the most part they had no alternative and erroneous forms of Christianity to unlearn, but religion is religion, and 1st century people had plenty of erroneous religion to overcome, and some of it had striking parallels with Christianity.

It seems to me that the Apostles and early saints taught some form of the basics of the faith, but not for overly long periods of time, and that many early converts were baptized knowing comparatively little theology.

My question is: How much did those early converts have to know to be able to become baptized Christians?

Does anyone know?
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« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2003, 05:36:02 PM »

Linus.

Before I was received into the Church at Pascha this year I read the book 'From Darkness to Light' - How One Became a Christian in the Early Church by Sr Anne Field. In it she says that by the 3rd century each candidate for baptism went through a 3 year catechumenate, consisting of regular catechetical instruction. At the end of this period the candidates were examined and those found ready then underwent a further daily period of preparation during Lent. During these weeks they were instructed in the whole course of salvation history, the OT prophecies and their fulfilment in Christ, and the good news of redemption. During Bright Week the newly-illumined received further instruction on the meaning of the sacraments they had received. It was held that the full meaning of the sacraments could only be grasped by means of the grace of enlightenment they themselves imparted.

This model could not be sustained, however, due to the popular belief that baptism should be delayed until the point of death so that one could go to eternity in a state of baptismal innocence. From the 5th century candidates received an initial session of catechetical instruction consisting of a summary outline of the faith and conduct required of a Christian. There was a symbolic administration of blessed salt, an exorcism, laying of hands and the marking of the candidate with the sign of the cross. After this he went away until he reported for baptism at the start of Lent, perhaps many years later.  Then he would receive again an intensive period of daily instruction and the bishop would enquire into his conduct and knowledge of the faith etc.

The whole book is a sort of reconstruction of that lenten catechumenate using solely the writings of the Fathers. I tell you it gave me a great respect for those early catechumens!

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« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2003, 05:41:54 PM »

Quote
Now there's not the big controversies in the Church, it's obivous where Orthodoxy is, and there aren't Arians and Nestorians running around claiming to be the Orthodox Church, so it's a little easier and it's not so necessary to have long and formal periods of catechisis.

No, now it's perhaps worse. Now we have people running around saying that heretics aren't really heretics, schismatics aren't really schismatics, that traditionalist Orthodox are really schismatics, and that the heterodox have valid sacraments. Now we have people saying that the Church made a whole lot of mistakes because it was either too blind or too political or too cultural to see the truth. I pity the people looking into Orthodoxy who dig deep enough. Our self-contradictions and backtracking on dogma must leave them scratching their heads in wonder.
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2003, 05:49:27 PM »

Dear Linus:

Three year catechumenate - early rule of the Church

Early on,  the Church picked a three year catechumenate for a good reason: St. John the Forerunner and Christ preached to huge gatherings of people for three years. The Apostles and Disciples of Christ got to know those people. They were the first to be baptized into Christ.

Some priests in the Orthodox Church today make people wait for three years, especially if they have never been baptized.

Others wait until they see the person is repentant and filled with a "bright sadness." That is what happened to me. When the priest saw that I was sober and watchful, that I was observing my rule of prayer, that I was faithful in attending Saturday Great Vespers and Sunday Divine Liturgy, then he felt that I was ready. But still he had me wait and go through Great Lent. Through prayer and fasting I was able to prepare for my Holy Chrismation.

The Church also made use of sponsors for those they really didn't know. The catechumen had to have a good reputation in the community.

Re: Running away from problems

The Priest is always on the lookout for people with personal problems - those who seem to go from church to church because they cannot get along.

Re: Roman Catholics converting to Orthodoxy

I am a convert from Roman Catholicism.  I experienced the turbulance of the 60's and 70's. It was heartbreaking to have the majestic High Mass discontinued when the Novus Ordo was introduced. When I experienced the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, I felt at home immediately within Orthodoxy.

One definition a Priest gave me:  How do you spell ex-Catholic.
Answer: R-O-A-M-I-N  Catholic.

Those people who have left the Catholic Church appear to be unstable as they roam from church to church seeking to find the perfect church. Problem is that there is no perfect church here on earth - The Church is composed of sinners.

Roamin = That definition sure fit my dad. I cannot count how many different denominations that he has tried since he left the Roman Catholic Church in the late 1960s.

Re: Fast Conversions

If we bring people into the Church too soon, problems will occur. I know two people who only had a 6 month catechumenate. One still believes in abortion, never having learned before her reception that abortion is considered to be murder within Orthodoxy. The other refuses to go to Holy Confession because the Priest never instructed her on the sacraments before Baptism. She didn't go to Holy Confession before her Baptism and she told me she would never go. She's my godchild and I don't know what to do except pray.

Yours truly in Christ our God,
Maria

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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2003, 10:31:50 PM »

Well, thanks for your responses. I was aware that lengthy catechumenates became the rule (at least in some places) by the 3rd century, but they are not observable in the New Testament account, nor were they universal. We know of entire kingdoms and peoples who were baptized with little catechesis because their sovereigns chose to make Christianity the national religion.

I was not really arguing a position so much as asking questions.

My personal feeling is that the convert should understand what he or she is getting into but that a catechumenate of 3 years is probably overly scrupulous.

I guess the best answer is that each one who will convert should convert when he or she is ready and that is an individual, case-by- case matter.
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2003, 10:42:22 PM »

Maria, is your goddaughter Greek Orthodox?  The reason I'm asking is that in the Russian tradition, you must do confession before you are baptized and/or chrismated.  Coming from a Baptist background (and having been far from a "Miss Goody Two Shoes"), I was absolutely terrified before my first confession.  However, I am very thankful that I did it.  It was very liberating to get all that out into the open and receive absolution for it.  I have a feeling that most priests don't really explain exactly what to do for confession.  It's one of those things you learn as you go along.  Now, confession is one of the sacraments that I value the most, after the Eucharist, of course.  If showing this to your goddaughter would help, please don't hesitate to show her this.  

Has she told you why she doesn't feel she could do it?  If she thinks about why she is so afraid of it, maybe she could discuss these things with the priest so that he could reassure her or you could reassure her.

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« Reply #23 on: August 16, 2003, 06:45:44 PM »

Dear Katherine,

Yes, my goddaughter is Greek Orthodox and she came from the old country. She lived under communism and her parents knew priests who must have been KGB spies; therefore, you can see the hesitation on her part.  Her family still doesn't trust the Orthodox Priests here in America.

Interestingly, in the Roman Catholic Church, the catechumens to be baptized do not need to make a confession, as Catholics believe that all sins committed before Baptism are remitted. The Orthodox believe the same, but usually require a full life confession to help the newly baptized avoid those sins in the future which could bring them under the sanction of a Holy Canon. (At least that is what the priest told me.)

BTW: there are Greek Orthodox in Russia.

In Christ,
Maria
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« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2003, 09:28:33 AM »

We just had a couple who entered the catechumenate last sunday(August 17), they are due to be chrismated on Sept. 14.  The reason why it is so soon is twofold.  They are the parents of an OCA priest who became Orthodox while he was an Episcopalian priest 10 years ago.  They agreed with much of what Orthodoxy held but saw no reason to depart from the Anglican communion.  The recent goings on changed that.  So in a way they've had an informal ten year long catechumenate.  The other reason is that both are in their late 80s and their health is quickly running out.  

For the most part a catechumenate of a least six months to a year is a good thing, but there are occasions that call for ekonomia.  My own catechumenate went from February 1998 to December of that year when I was chrismated at the feast of the Nativity of Christ.
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« Reply #25 on: August 20, 2003, 02:04:18 PM »

My mother was Chrismated at age 65 after a rather brief formal Catechumenate.  But she was living with us and had stopped attending Catholic Mass, even though I offered to bring her to them, and started to attend all Orthodox Services with us in our church.   One Sunday morning she said that she wanted to be Orthodox too, and Father enrolled her in the Catechumenate before Divine Liturgy that very morning.   She was Chrismated about one month later.  GOD IS GOOD!

But the story of the Catechumens in their late 80's posted above by David beats all!  GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!  

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