Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

22 May 2018. A Good Word on “Converts”

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I recently visited a “convert church”’ which had a notice by the entrance with the words: “Warning: This Church May Contain Nuts”.

We’re talking now about a small minority, an eccentric fringe, so we shouldn’t get things out of proportion. I think that those who consider that they’re “converts” aren’t Orthodox; those for whom Orthodoxy is a way of life, who’ve forgotten a time when they weren’t in the Church, are simply Orthodox. Orthodoxy is second nature to us. However, “converts” (that is, a minority of converts) seem to cultivate exotic eccentricity, especially strange dress and hairstyles. Yet, the Mother of God was a “convert”, as were all the apostles. Nevertheless, they never spoke of themselves as “converts” and we never think of them as “converts”. Of course not… because they were converted… i.e. finished products.

Here we come to the essence of the matter… there are “converts” and there are the converted. The difference is that “converts” are people who want to remain in a stew for beginners, forever and ever, and there are people who’ve been converted and are trying to improve themselves. In other words, quite simply, there are neophytes and there are Christians.

Those who are neophytes want to remain at the Church doors, forever ranting against their former beliefs (there is nothing so anti-Anglican as an ex-Anglican) and there are those who have entered the Church and really can’t be bothered by what goes on at the Church doors. Those who remain at the doors forever read books for converts (Bloom, Ware, Schmemann, The Way of a Pilgrim, Kalomiros, etc) and cultivate eccentricity and exoticism in dress, hairstyle, or speech, sometimes for some pathological reason (to look different from others); they are “converts”. It’s time for them to move on and become normal Christians, which is what the word Orthodox actually means.

The word “eccentric” is another word for vanity, the desire to be different, to be attention-seeking. Such “converts” need to move on from the first course to the main course with its meat, which has the promise of the sweet dessert to come. Those who remain converts need to be converted. However, they must first want to be converted and not remain “converts”.

Personally, I’m against religion, that is, the artificial invention by States of religious establishments to repress people. However, I’m for faith, that is, for spiritual experience, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is the foundation of the Orthodox Church.

17 May 2018

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

Editor:

I’ve seen that many converts, especially, convert clergy, adopt a “hyperdox” attitude. That’s something that I’ve noticed in a young convert priest. Everything has to be “correct”, to hell with what the parish customs are… can you believe, he’s even invented “traditions!” Before communion, at every liturgy, he makes a bombastic announcement that communion is only for Orthodox Christians who’ve prepared themselves, but then communes all and sundry! I’ve never seen the like… never. I’ve been at liturgies served by famous hierarchs, esteemed elders, and seasoned archpriests… none of them ever made such an announcement, ever. God willing, he’ll grow out of such fanciful juvenile notions and come to realise that the Church’s tradition is best… we don’t make such announcements, for we assume that Christian people know that… that one doesn’t come forward unless one has prepared (it doesn’t mean that one must attend the evening service beforehand, that’s a monastic practice, best kept in the monastic milieu, where it belongs, and where it’s salutary).

Such immaturity is irritating, but it isn’t a deal-breaker. It simply means that someone got ordained before they were truly ready for ordination. You pray for them and hope that they’ll grow up… God willing, they will.

BMD

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