Thursday, August 14, 2008

“Why Do Converts Leave?”

Reflecting on the great number of adult converts who have over the years left the Orthodox Church (over 50%) it is clear to me that something is drastically wrong with how we catechesis, form and integrate new adult Orthodox Christians into the life of the Church.

Falling back on my own training in the social and human science, I would like to understand how our pastoral practice is failing so many who join the Orthodox Church as adults. As part of my attempt to understand, I would invite those who read this blog and who have left the Orthodox Church to contact me either in the comment box of this post or by clicking the red on the lower right side of this page. Alternative, if you know someone who has left the Church, I would ask you to direct them to this blog and encourage them to speak with me.

Basically what I would ask from those who contact me is that they put written form a brief summary of what it was that lead them to leave the Orthodox Church. Let me be very clear here. Though I am an Orthodox priest, I am not asking for this to convince someone to return to the Church. Ideally I hope your comments will provide the Church with a better sense of why people leave. Eventually this might help grow into a research project to develop pastoral strategies to improve the retention rates for converts. It is even possible that, as a result of your participation in this project that you might reconsider your decision to leave the Church. But these are all secondary to my primary concern here which is to understand what has lead people who have joined the Church as adults to later leave.

Finally to those who wonder if what I am proposing is in the best interest of the Church, let me leave you with an observation of G. K. Chesterton: "What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." If anything has become clear about the life of the Orthodox Church (especially in the United States) it is that we cannot fulfill the great evangelical and pastoral work that Christ has given us without appreciative self-criticism. Everywhere the Church in America is faltering, and however it is faltering, it is because of the absence of appreciative self-criticism. What I hope to do with this invitation is to build on what the Church does well so that we can, by God's grace and our own efforts, correct ourselves where we are less than our best communal and personal selves.

In Christ,

+Fr. Gregory

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