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Chapter I - Introduction to Orthodoxy

Chapter I – Introduction

The January 15, 1990, edition of U. S. News and World Report included an article entitled “From evangelicalism to Orthodoxy.” The article described a “renaissance of ritualism that is slowly reaching across a wide spectrum of religious traditions–from mainline Presbyterianism to Reform Judaism–where clergy and laity are discarding informal, sermon-centered worship that has come to characterize much of American religious practice in the 20th Century.”[1] The article described people, such as Father Bill Caldaroni, a former Protestant who converted to the Orthodox Church, along with the people in his mission in WheatonIllinois. His conversion was the result of an intensive study of the early church fathers. According to Caldaroni, “In Orthodoxy we have found the fullness of worship.”[2] Also cited in the article was the mass-conversion to the Orthodox Church of over 2000 former evangelicals. These evangelicals felt they needed to become part of the Church. The crucial question was “which church?” According to Father Peter Gillquist, one of the leaders of this group of former evangelicals, the study of the doctrine, worship, and polity of the early church led them to the ancient Orthodox Church. This group was eventually received into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. Gillquist now heads the Church’s outreach agency and describes its mission as “bringing America to Orthodoxy.”

With the entry of these former evangelicals into the Orthodox Church has come a renewal in missions and evangelism among some of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America, primarily the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. It is interesting to note that this jurisdiction, originally of Syrian/Lebanese heritage, claims that one-half of its priests are converts to Orthodoxy.[3] The trend in conversions was highlighted in a recent edition of Again, the quarterly publication of the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission.That edition, entitled “Why are Protestant Schools Producing Orthodox Clergy?”, described the journeys to Orthodoxy by former Pentecostal, fundamental, evangelical, charismatic, and mainline Protestant clergy. The response to that edition of Again was so overwhelming that the publisher, Conciliar Press, decided to publish a book that included an expanded catalogue of testimonies. This book, entitled Coming Home, manifests a variety of reasons that these men converted to Orthodoxy. In virtually every case the conversions were the result of serious theological reflection. Many of these clergy became Orthodox, often involving great personal and financial sacrifice. These men do not speak flippantly about their former denominations. They are thankful for what their traditions had to offer them. “It was because of, not in spite of, their heritage that they have found their way to the fullness of the OrthodoxFaith.”[4]

For many people, the Orthodox Church is a complete mystery. This writer has discovered, that even among Army chaplains, little is known about the Orthodox Church. This paper will attempt to unveil the mysteries of the Orthodox Church. This paper will document some of the reasons for the movement to Orthodoxy, and provide an overview of its historical development and theological foundations.

Why is this topic relevant to Army chaplains? Army chaplains not only serve their own religious faith group but also provide for the religious needs of the soldiers in their units. Chaplains need to be aware of current trends in American religion as well as the basic beliefs and practices of various faith groups.