Author Topic: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?  (Read 744 times)

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Offline TaiKamiya720

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How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« on: October 03, 2016, 01:33:19 PM »
I know that several people have converted through GOARCH like Johnathan Jackson. I know there are several different Orthodox Church organizations like GOARCH, ROCOR, ACROD, and Antiochian Orthodox. As an ex-Catholic, I know that there is a clear way for a non Catholic to become a Catholic through RICA. But in Orthodoxy, the conversion path for a catechumen is kinda unclear. How does someone from outside the Orthodox Church convert to Orthodoxy? What would be the best Orthodox Church organization (eg GOARCH, ACROD) for someone to convert through.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 01:34:13 PM by TaiKamiya720 »

Offline Ainnir

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2016, 06:50:33 PM »
I second the observations.  I looked at RCIA for a bit.

The answer: it depends.  That's about all I know.  It's a pastoral decision, and left up to the parish priest.  I think some parishes are more open to/prepared for converts than others.

Offline WPM

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2016, 06:52:51 PM »
You call the local parish and make appointments with the priest and take inquirer and catechumen classes while attending Liturgy on Sundays until you're chrismated.

Offline servulus

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2016, 06:58:14 PM »
I don't know how the various jurisdictions do it. I emailed the priest at the church I wanted to visit before I went. When I visited the first time He met with me and answered a few questions. About ten months, several discussions and some reading later I became a catechumen. Now there's more reading, a prayer rule and more discussions. I don't know how long it will be before I'm received into the Church. I'm not in a rush because of my family situation. I don't know if my experience is typical.

Offline AClaire11

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2016, 08:55:40 PM »
I recommend visiting the parishes closest to you and getting a feel for each one. For example, there's a Greek church, an OCA church, and a ROCOR cathedral near me. Though I love Greek chant and speak Russian, I will convert through the OCA church. It's closest, not as overwhelmingly large, and the priest not so busy that I feel like I'm imposing on him. Plus, my husband, who is supportive but has no immediate plans to convert, is not good with foreign languages. So basically, there's no one jurisdiction that's best for converts.

As for becoming a catechumen, some churches have a very rigorous program. The two I've inquired at have had me read some introductory books and attend a few discussions before telling me that I can be chrismated whenever I feel ready. Ironically, I would prefer more structure and this is, I think, a big part of why I have not converted yet.

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2016, 12:47:23 PM »
I know that several people have converted through GOARCH like Johnathan Jackson. I know there are several different Orthodox Church organizations like GOARCH, ROCOR, ACROD, and Antiochian Orthodox. As an ex-Catholic, I know that there is a clear way for a non Catholic to become a Catholic through RICA. But in Orthodoxy, the conversion path for a catechumen is kinda unclear. How does someone from outside the Orthodox Church convert to Orthodoxy? What would be the best Orthodox Church organization (eg GOARCH, ACROD) for someone to convert through.

1. Start attending the parish.
2. Talk to the priest.
3. Attend catechism classes if the parish has them.
4. Become a catechumen.
5. Be baptized/chrismated/professed.
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Offline MichaelJosephThomasAshe

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2016, 11:54:33 PM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

I am starting by reading the Philokalia, and Fr Kallistos' book on the Orthodox Church.  But somewhere along the line I will have to make a decision (with God's help).

Any comments or advice would be appreciated.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2016, 12:07:47 AM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.
A big majority of the OCA churches have the Russian connection you mentioned, but have the services in English. Probably most of the other churches are mostly English speaking too, but I know that not all parishes are.

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2016, 12:19:10 AM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

I am starting by reading the Philokalia, and Fr Kallistos' book on the Orthodox Church.  But somewhere along the line I will have to make a decision (with God's help).

Any comments or advice would be appreciated.

Many Greek Orthodox churches also have services in a mixture of English and Greek. From parish to parish it varies. I recommend attending the one that is the closest to you first. And if the language barrier proves too large on the first one you attend, try finding another one nearby until you find one that uses either all English or enough English.

Also, as rakovsky said already, most OCA (Orthodox Church in America) parishes use English in their services. So those are a sure thing.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2016, 01:20:26 AM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

I am starting by reading the Philokalia, and Fr Kallistos' book on the Orthodox Church.  But somewhere along the line I will have to make a decision (with God's help).

Any comments or advice would be appreciated.

Many Greek Orthodox churches also have services in a mixture of English and Greek.
I visited a St Ephrem monastery once that was all Greek.
Otherwise the three Greek churches I visited were a mix of English and Greek, one of them being 90% English at least.

I guess in some of the major cities there are churches (eg NYC, L.A., etc.) where there is a fresh immigrant population and ethnicity is a big issue, but commonly it's not a barrier.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 01:23:25 AM by rakovsky »

Offline MichaelJosephThomasAshe

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2016, 01:36:45 AM »
Thank You.  I will proceed.  Actually there is a Russian Orthodox very close to me.  Shall I contact them first or just show up at a service?
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2016, 02:43:07 AM »
Thank You.  I will proceed.  Actually there is a Russian Orthodox very close to me.  Shall I contact them first or just show up at a service?
I think contact is best, because they can even have someone guide you through the service. They should be happy to have a guest. It will go better that way. You can just say that you are interested in learning about them. If they don't pick up the phone you can leave a message. It will be OK then regardless to show up. You don't need an invitation.

« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 02:45:41 AM by rakovsky »

Offline MichaelJosephThomasAshe

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2016, 02:56:10 AM »
Thanks again.  I will contact them tomorrow.....or the afternoon since it is the day of the Liturgy.
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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2016, 05:26:06 PM »
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

Not sure where in Texas you are, but I would not write off any of these Churches because of language, at least not yet.  All of these use at least some English in America, and many/most will use all or majority English. 
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Offline maneki_neko

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"De-facto Catechumen"?
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2016, 09:27:14 AM »
I have a similar question and am wondering if anyone can advise me; after asking advise from our nearest priest  (many hours away, there is no OC near us) and explaining where we were in our seeking, he sent us a message saying he considered us "de-facto Catechumen until the time we can be properly received into the Church".

We were very surprised because we thought maybe we had to attend a class or have an official meeting (my husband considers us inquirers) or something to be considered a Catechumen. We have asked him for additional clarification but are waiting on a reply. Basically, are we Catechumen if a priest says we are?

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2016, 09:31:10 AM »
Pretty much, yes. There is a formal rite for making someone a catechumen but I don't think it is used very often (I never had it).
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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2016, 10:21:10 AM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

I am starting by reading the Philokalia, and Fr Kallistos' book on the Orthodox Church.  But somewhere along the line I will have to make a decision (with God's help).

Any comments or advice would be appreciated.

Regarding language, I think that most jurisdictions are using English much more than they did 50 years ago, when I came to the United States. In the South, most, if not all, parishes of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and Antiochian Archdiocese use English 95% of the time, if not 100%. Indeed, in those two jurisdictions, most of the parishioners and clergy are converts, especially in the South and West of the Mississippi. I have also heard that most Greek parishes use English most of the time (again in the South and West of the Mississippi).

I would advise you to visit all of the Orthodox parishes around you. Aside from the language issue, the services will be roughly the same; the priests will have different pastoral styles; the congregation will be welcoming but to various degrees; and the parish as a whole will have a personality of its own when it comes to evangelization, outreach, and expectations from new members. Just remember that the parish that you choose will be your spiritual family. BTW, please keep in mind that, as much as many of us would like for us to be in communion with the Copts and other Oriental Orthodox, we are not at this time. 
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 10:23:14 AM by Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) »

Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: "De-facto Catechumen"?
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2016, 10:31:31 AM »
I have a similar question and am wondering if anyone can advise me; after asking advise from our nearest priest  (many hours away, there is no OC near us) and explaining where we were in our seeking, he sent us a message saying he considered us "de-facto Catechumen until the time we can be properly received into the Church".

We were very surprised because we thought maybe we had to attend a class or have an official meeting (my husband considers us inquirers) or something to be considered a Catechumen. We have asked him for additional clarification but are waiting on a reply. Basically, are we Catechumen if a priest says we are?

I think that this particular priest was either overenthusiastic, misunderstood your message, or was guided by the Holy Spirit. In my jurisdiction, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), you would start as an inquirer and would be made a catechumen when you and the priest deem proper. Keeping in mind that being a catechumen means that you have decided to become Orthodox and that you are committed to a period of learning and regular attendance at all the services that you can (not just Sunday Divine Liturgy) before you decide to finalize the process and your priest agrees. It is very similar to folks falling in love (period of inquiry), becoming engaged (catechumenate) and finally getting married (Baptism, Chrismation, and/or Profession of Faith).
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 10:32:23 AM by Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) »

Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2016, 10:44:35 AM »
I know that several people have converted through GOARCH like Johnathan Jackson. I know there are several different Orthodox Church organizations like GOARCH, ROCOR, ACROD, and Antiochian Orthodox. As an ex-Catholic, I know that there is a clear way for a non Catholic to become a Catholic through RICA. But in Orthodoxy, the conversion path for a catechumen is kinda unclear. How does someone from outside the Orthodox Church convert to Orthodoxy? What would be the best Orthodox Church organization (eg GOARCH, ACROD) for someone to convert through.

Depending on where you live in Atlanta, there are excellent choices for you. I have attended the local OCA parishes, as well as the Antiochian parish--all would be excellent choices. As far as which one would be best to convert through, visit all of them within reasonable distance, and choose the one with the most demanding curriculum (so to speak). At at minimum, a rigorous catechumenate program, would have the following features:

1. Attendance at all weekly services, not just the Sunday Divine Liturgy. At a minimum, they would be Wednesday and Saturday Vespers, and Sunday Matins plus Divine Liturgy. (I would not consider a church that does not have all of these services).

2. Attendance at the major feasts' Vigils and Divine Liturgies.

3. Attendance at all services that are scheduled for: the weeks leading up to Great Lent, Great Lent itself, Holy Week, and Holy and Great Pascha.

4. A curriculum, with weekly learning sessions at the church, and reading assignments.

5. A daily prayer rule that will eventually include an icon corner at your house.

6. A fasting rule. 
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 10:45:12 AM by Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) »

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2016, 10:56:03 AM »
(I would not consider a church that does not have all of these services).

If I were an inquirer following your advice in my area, there would not be a single parish within a reasonable radius of me that meets your criteria. Of course having such services is ideal and should be striven for, but things are complicated enough for an inquirer already.

Not every parish is going to have a formal catechumenate program. Sometimes it might just be the priest meeting one-on-one with the inquirer, talking things over, and recommending things that seem to fit the inquirer's own situation.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 10:57:10 AM by Iconodule »
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But it had not been in Tess's power - nor is it in anybody's power - to feel the whole truth of golden opinions while it is possible to profit by them. She - and how many more - might have ironically said to God with Saint Augustine, "Thou hast counselled a better course than thou hast permitted."
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Offline Agabus

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2016, 10:58:06 AM »
Pretty much, yes. There is a formal rite for making someone a catechumen but I don't think it is used very often (I never had it).


Two of the parishes I’ve attended have used it. Maybe it’s a St. Vlad’s thing.

Re: the OP — honestly, in the U.S. the process is going to dictated on a parish-by-parish basis. When my family started our entrance into the church, we basically showed up and told the priest we were ready to become  catechumen and — because we had already attended services for a year in a different town and were only new to the parish because we’d just moved into the area — he did the formal rite making the family catechumens pretty quickly.

We lived fairly far away from the church at the time, so our catechism wasn’t attending classes, per se, but we would meet the priest a couple of times a month at a McDonalds in the middle and discuss whatever he’d had us reading or whatever questions we had. We did this for a few months and were baptized/chrismated on Lazarus Saturday. A few other converts were received at the same time, but I have no idea about their manner of instruction.

Two other parishes I’ve attended had formal classes at some point during the week.

I guess my point is your pastor has the leeway to be pragmatic about it if needs demand.

The first thing to do is show up and attend services. If the Spirit leads (and sometimes people are sure they’re all ready to convert until they actually set foot in the nave), then ask the priest what’s next.

« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 10:58:58 AM by Agabus »
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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2016, 11:10:17 AM »
(I would not consider a church that does not have all of these services).

If I were an inquirer following your advice in my area, there would not be a single parish within a reasonable radius of me that meets your criteria. Of course having such services is ideal and should be striven for, but things are complicated enough for an inquirer already.

Not every parish is going to have a formal catechumenate program. Sometimes it might just be the priest meeting one-on-one with the inquirer, talking things over, and recommending things that seem to fit the inquirer's own situation.

Of course, you are right in context, that is, a scarcity of Orthodox churches in one's town, as well as working priests whose second jobs preclude holding a regular round of services. However, in this case, Atlanta has a number of Orthodox parishes and it is possible to find a parish that is close to my ideal.

I did not mention it before, but another factor to consider is the size of the parish. Very large parishes with a small number of clergy will struggle to have a decent catechumenate program and it would be easy for a newcomer to be lost in the crowd. In very small parishes, you would have a simialr problem with the catechumate but it will not be easy for a newcomer to avoid pitching in various ministries. The ideal, at least for me, is a parish with no more than 200 folks, with a rector, one or more attached priests, and one or more deacons.

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2016, 11:56:55 AM »
The ideal, at least for me, is a parish with no more than 200 folks, with a rector, one or more attached priests, and one or more deacons.

Of course you're talking in ideals here, but how many parishes in the DOS have more than one priest and deacons?
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Offline maneki_neko

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Re: "De-facto Catechumen"?
« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2016, 08:26:15 AM »
Carl and Iconodule, thanks for your input.

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2016, 10:35:44 PM »
I am sure the process will vary, but so far I've attended Liturgies, classes and men's group, and told the pastoral assistant I would like to join the Church. Next I have a talk with the priest (God willing, I don't die, no Second Coming or anything like that between now and then ;D) and I am supposed to turn in the stewardship pledge form. After that it sounds like some sort of catechism and eventually chrisimation (being GOARCH) when Father says I am ready.
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Offline GREGORIO

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Re: How does a non-Orthodox convert to Orthodoxy?
« Reply #25 on: Yesterday at 11:46:52 AM »
Just some basic info....I am 64 and after 50 some odd years I was looking to rejoin the Catholic Church which I was brought up in, and schooled form 12 years.  Problem is since I have been retired for about a year I have been exposed to the Orthodox faith through You Tube videos, and I am very much feeling like I am being converted to the Faith.

My initial question is what I feel is the most obvious.....because there is Russian, Greek, Coptic, etc....I am in a quandary as to which to attach to.
I am drawn to the Russian videos of Valaam, the Greeks of Athos, the Coptics of St Anthony in Egypt, and others.  But all have a central language of which I speak none of.

I am starting by reading the Philokalia, and Fr Kallistos' book on the Orthodox Church.  But somewhere along the line I will have to make a decision (with God's help).

Any comments or advice would be appreciated.

Hi, I really recommend that you visit St. Jonah in Spring, TX.  I live about 4 hours away and we have made the trip there twice, and plan to continue visiting a few times a year.  It is the most holy place I've ever attended and Fr. John Whiteford is a great Priest.  It's a ROCOR church, but does all services in English.