“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 reachby.com 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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5 Responses to ““Why Do Converts Leave?””

  1. Guest Says:

    I have comments on this topic of
    <div class="post hentry uncustomized-post-template"><h3 class="post-title entry-title"> “Why Do Converts Leave?” </h3>
    </div>

    if you are interested.  I am not sure how well I fit the model of "leaving" since I have not joined another Church and still consider myself Orthodox, but I have avoided communion and services for at least 1 year.  You can email me if you wish.

  2. Fr Gregory Says:

    Friend,
     
    If you would please email me via the reachmeby button on the lower right side of the blog, I would be honored to speak with you about your situation.
     
    In Christ,
     
    +Fr Gregory

  3. David Says:

    I think you are intending for those who’ve personally left to explain why. While I am not that person, I did witness someone leave and can tell you what happened, in relatively short terms.
     
    A new soon-to-be-convert couple was very wealthy and very active in our parish. They repaved the parkinglot. The husband painted the building (largely himself). They paid for new carpets. They seemed generous and grateful for the opportunity to do this. They were yet catechumen.
     
    But then one day the priest came in to the wife making changes to the choir area and bringing in chairs to the hall. He told them he didn’t mind the chairs if there were only a few, but the choir director should be consulted if any changes were made to that stuff. When the choir director said no thank you, the wife grew angry. After a tirade our priest suggested that her baptism (which was to happen shortly) should be delayed until she’s able to reconcile with the choir director. Angered she left our parish and went to a Greek one nearby.
     
    After about a month she approached the priest there and demanded the services be all in English (they are half-half). The priest offered to bring it up at the parish council. He did. The council declined. The woman came the next week to liturgy in her pajamas as some sort of protest. When he also refused to enter into the Church immediately, she and her husband stopped going entirely.

  4. Fr Gregory Says:

    David,
     
    Christ is Risen!
     
    Thank you for your comment.
     
    The story you relate above is a sad one and not only because the wife and her husband left the Church.  From of it, I can’t help wonder why this couple was received at all–especially after the walked away from one parish/jurisdition and went to another.  Sigh!
     
    Again thanks for the comment.

  5. David Says:

    Out of respect my priest didn’t ask the GOA priest details (it is possible she didn’t even tell him much their experience with our parish), though my priest has told me he wishes he would have given the guy a heads up at least.
     
    I suppose this is not uncommon. Highly motivated, successful people expecting that their contributions (and apparent needs which are going unaddressed) justify their self-empowerment.
     
    This story is actually one of the reasons I brought up my concerns a few months back about “obedience”. I can’t say that my expeierence hasn’t shaped my Orthodoxy, because it has.


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