Convert growth in Orthodoxy

New converts flocking to an ancient church. From Ad Orientem.

Like many of his parishioners, Father Richard Petranek came to the Orthodox church in search of the past.

After 30 years as an Episcopalian priest, Petranek converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and leads a new but growing parish in west Houston, filled almost entirely with converts to the ancient faith.

"Most people come for the stability," he said. "The same thing that is taught today in the Orthodox church was taught 500 years ago, was taught 1,000 years ago, was taught 1,500 years ago."

At a time when most mainline Christian churches are losing members, Eastern Orthodox churches — which trace their beliefs to the church described in the New Testament - are growing, both in Houston and across the United States.

The numbers are still small: the 2010 U.S. Orthodox census estimates there are about 32,000 active Orthodox churchgoers in Texas and just more than 1 million nationally, although other estimates are higher. But the number of U.S. Orthodox parishes grew 16 percent over the past decade.

In Houston and its suburbs, the growth has been more dramatic, fueled by immigration from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, along with an increasing number of converts.

The Orthodox tradition includes Greek Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and the Orthodox Church in America, among others.

"We were amazed the church still existed, and it had never changed," said Lana Jobe, who with her husband, Lloyd, left a Baptist church to join Petranek at St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church four years ago. "That was so important to us." ...

Much as I enjoy reading about this, I can't refrain from some minor carping. There is a superficial feel to this article, although that may be due to a reporter out of her element. What these individuals must internalize is that Orthodoxy is not, so to speak, the denomination that has it all figured out (No women priests! Use real wine!), or interprets the Bible CORRECTLY, even though we do.

Orthodoxy is the Faith; the very Church, founded when the Holy Spirit descended on Christ's followers after His ascension. The Apostles were her first priests and bishops, then their successors, and so on to the present day.

The Church, the Bride of Christ, is the way she is because she can be no other way. You have not found the one group that really gets it. You simply were not in the Church, and now you are in the Church.

People who come to the Church because it's the group that's "right" (like I kept trying to tell my liberal friends!) or because it's "traditional" (They wear robes! Incense!) will wash in, see the inter-ethnic squabbles, the corrupt hierarchs, the obtuse, incompetent priests, and then wash back out and on to the next American-christian fad.


Dirichlet said…
A recent post at The Inductivist's blog showed an interesting list of adjectives about Orthodoxy from several devout men: unyielding, rigorous, heroic, no-nonsense, enduring...
It's a good list, and one I subscribe to. But again, what defines the Church is not so much its "rulebook" as that it simply is what it is. We don't recognize homosexual marriage because God Himself has defined the sacrament of marriage and the Church, a God-established institution, can do no more and no less, regardless of the fact that we can discern policy reasons for not recognizing homosexual marriage.