- My fiancee is is Roman Catholic and we intend to get married in the Orthodox Church.
- I am in a serious relationship with a Greek Orthodox man.
- Marital Challenges related to Conversion
- Interreligious Challenges and Conversion
- Converting for the Wrong Reasons
- Pastoral Concerns
- Conversion and Seventh Day Adventists
- Conversion and Seventh Day Adventists
Question: "My fiancee is Roman Catholic and we intend to get married in the Orthodox Church. Must he convert to Orthodox Christianity in order to marry me in the Orthodox Church? This is his second marriage and he would like to avoid making another mistake."
Answer: The answer is no. However, I would suggest he prayerfully considers the pros and cons of conversion - especially considering that he is serious about avoiding another mistake. Research clearly indicated that single church couples who pray together are more likely to stay together. Such couples generally tend to enjoy higher levels of marital satisfaction.
Question: "I am in a serious relationship with a Greek Orthodox man. I have been talking about marriage and I am interested in learning more about the process of converting to Greek Orthodoxy. I was raised Catholic. Can you provide some information?"
Answer: I would recommend that you contact a Greek Orthodox priest who is located in your area. He will be in the best position to describe the process of conversion that he typically uses to help potential converts enter the Orthodox Church. Here are some typical steps that most priests follow in their efforts to prepare baptized Christians like yourself enter the Orthodox Church.
- You should expect to do some reading about the Greek Orthodox Church.
- You should also expect to meet with the priest for a minimum of 4 - 8 sessions. These meetings may take place in a group setting with other perspective converts or be one-on-one encounters. During these meetings the priest will provide you with an overview of the Greek Orthodox Church's history, faith and worship. By the way, whenever possible, I recommend that the Greek Orthodox partner also be in attendance. I find the the Greek orthodox partner usually benefit as much from the information that's shared as the prospective convert. Talk to the priest about this option.
- You should allow yourself about 3-6 months to get through this process.
- At the end of the process, you'll be received into the Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Chrismation. The priest who takes you through the preparation process will explain the significance of this Sacrament, as well as answer any and all of your other questions/concerns.
Questions and Observations: "I have been attending the Greek Orthodox since Easter. I have been Southern Baptist for 40 years. I knew when entered the Church I am attending God directed me to do so. I love the beauty of the Orthodox Church, especially the Heavenly, Holy presence of Christ. I have been involved in research and various introductory Orthodox and advanced Orthodox readings. I am to the point where I am ready for conversion to Orthodoxy.
As I was searching for a Church I explored am faith traditions. There was always something missing. When Christ led me to the Orthodox faith - I mean this literally, Christ has directed me to Orthodoxy - I was so relieved, blessed, humbled, thankful and joyful. I had finally found what I had been searching for or may I say the void was filled.
Christ can fill many voids if we open the door for him to enter. At the same time that I experienced this joyfulness, I also have somewhat of a burden on my heart. In particular, certain questions began to mount in my heart like the following few: How will I tell my wife? How will I tell my family? What will my brothers and sisters of the Baptist faith think? Over time when I began to discuss Orthodoxy with my wife, she immediately was not supportive which I guess is to be expected. As a result, my wife will remain Southern Baptist.
The problem I have is that we have a new born baby. I want her to be baptized. There is no way my wife will go for this. At first we had an agreement that our baby would go to church with her one Sunday and the next Sunday she would go with me. Now my wife does not want her attending the Orthodox Church. I know my salvation and deification), entering the Kingdom of Heaven is most important.
Father I need you advice and guidance. I am ordering the books, Ministering to intermarried Couples, When you Intermarry and Intermarriage: Orthodox Perspectives. Are there any books out there concerning when one spouse converts and the other remains Protestant? What about how to raise our child in a inter-Christian marriage which was the result of one spouse converting to Orthodoxy?"
Answer: Christ is in our midst. I'm going to offer some observations that may prove helpful. But before I do, I want to ask you to review these comments prayerfully and use them only if they appear to apply to your unique circumstances.
I'd suggest you slow things down. Your e-mail suggests that you've been attending the Orthodox Church "since Easter." That is only a few months. If this is correct, then I'm not surprised you’re encountering some of the challenges you've described. It will take your spouse some time to catch up to you, or at least begin to understand your needs. Right now, I suspect she is having thoughts like the following few: Does he have a screw that's loose? He's being really selfish. He's betraying his background and our faith tradition…. So, give her some time to absorb what Christ has given you. As long as you aren't too pushy, condescending and impatient, I suspect that in God's good time she will begin to soften.
In addition, I noticed you didn't spend much time describing your wife's objections. Have you sat down as a couple and tried to fully understand your wife's fears and concerns? If you haven't done this, then I would maintain that this is a good first step. In many instances, spouses like yourself are too preoccupied in helping their partner understand them, and they forget to spend time trying to respectfully and prayerfully understand their partner's fears, resentment and anger.
In the end, in addition to the books you’ve described, I recommend you consider reading my newest book entitled, Attending to Your Marriage. Along with the information in the books you’ve alluded to above, I suspect the information in this resource will also prove helpful in your efforts to reach some holy, mutually satisfying resolutions. If these suggestions aren’t helpful, write me back and we can prayerfully explore the next steps you might consider taking.
Question: "I have just gotten engaged to a very nice girl, who happens to be Muslim. We have discussed the possibility of conversion. However, since her father is very ill, we are considering a “fast” wedding. Can you make any suggestions to help us?"
Answer: Here are some suggestions:
1. You might consider downloading and printing the information on the Interfaith Marriage Webs site that pertains to interreligious marriages. Despite the fact that your fiancee is considering conversion, you will likely profit from a review of this information. Simply go to the Web site at www.interfaith.goarch.org and click on the information on the sidebar under the subsection entitled: When Orthodox Marry Non-Christians.
2. You might also consider the resource I’ve listed below. This resource provides a good overview of the faith and important customs of our faith tradition.
Rouvelas, M. (2002). A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Bethesda, MD: Nea Attiki Press.
3. I would also urge you to contact a Greek Orthodox priest ASAP. He will be in the best position to describe the process of conversion that he typically uses to help potential converts enter the Orthodox Church. Here are some typical steps that most priests follow in their efforts to prepare baptized non-Christians like your fiancée. However, with regard to you’re special needs, the priest may be willing to work with you in order to expedite the process and/or modify to meet your needs.
You should expect to do some reading about the Greek Orthodox Church.
You should expect to meet with the priest for a minimum of 4 - 8 sessions. These meetings may take place in a group setting with other perspective converts or be one-on-one encounters. During these meetings the priest will provide you with an overview of the Greek Orthodox Church's history, faith and worship. By the way, whenever possible, I recommend that the Greek Orthodox partner also be in attendance. I find that the Greek Orthodox partner usually benefits as much from the information that's shared as the prospective convert. Talk to the priest about this option.
At the end of the process, your fiancée will be received into the Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Baptism. The priest who takes her through the preparation process will explain the significance of this Sacrament, as well as answer any and all of your other questions/concerns.
Question: “I was on your website and found it most informative. I would like to know if one should force another to convert to their religion by blackmail. My friend is forcing his girlfriend to get baptized, just to get married. She has agreed to be baptized, but not leave her church. Should I say something to them or just stay out of it? I feel guilty because I introduced them.”
Answer: Like you, I would be uncomfortable with what you've described. Might I make the following suggestions?
I would refrain from becoming directly involved by giving either of them unsolicited counsel. In lieu of doing nothing, I would offer your friend the link I've included below related to conversion. This article should prove helpful in helping them make an informed decision about conversion.
In addition, you might tell her that you would be happy to provide a second opinion if she would like to discuss this matter further with you. If she chooses to keep you out of it, if I were you, I would honor her decision.
Finally, you might also suggest she consult me via E-mail or consult a local Greek Orthodox priest with her questions and concerns.
From my perspective, if you proceed in this manner, you should not feel guilty for introducing them. Ultimately, their decision to proceed with the conversion process will be their decision and not yours.
Question: Is this an accurate statement? A person baptized Orthodox and later in life is confirmed in the Catholic church can no longer receive the sacraments of the Orthodox Church and are no longer considered a member of the Orthodox church?
Answer: Yes, this is correct. The Orthodox Church would consider this person Catholic and would not permit them to receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church.
Question: I am faced with a committed Christian man in his 40s who wants to become Orthodox and has fulfilled the Catechism requirements. His wife is not interested and is committed to her membership of an Assemblies of God Church (AOG). They do not have an Orthodox Church in their town so it is difficult to get to Church regularly. The Orthodox Churches are few in number and not always easy to attend unless you are lucky enough to live near one. Is it permissible for the husband to go with his wife and daughter to the AOG Church on the Sundays when he cannot get to the nearest Orthodox Church or is this against the canons of the Church?
I have counseled them both. The husband has led a rather independent spiritual existence in his attempts to find the True Church, but his wife is comfortable in her relationships in her local Church. Going to the Orthodox Church in a nearby city would mean she would have to be cut off from her comfort zone and friends and the children would not have a youth group to go to. There are financial restraints in having the cost of getting to Church and also moving into a mainly Greek community in the nearest Orthodox Church. About 1/3 of the Service is in English, but it is very much a Greek Orthodox Church. The nearest Orthodox Church is two hours away. My church is even further but is more English in character and Services are in English.
I would value your opinions.
Answer: The canonical side of your question falls within your hierarch's purview. However, I do not believe what you've described should be resolved from a purely canonical perspective. It is my opinion that the challenges you've described are of a more pastoral nature and not a canonical nature. As such, here are my suggestions from a purely pastoral perspective. Use them if you believe they will help.
As you well know, we are not in communion with the Assembly of God Church and to my knowledge, their baptism is generally not accepted. Despite these canonical prohibitions, based on the information you've provided, here's how I might proceed.
1. If you have not done so, I would inform him of the above.
2. If you have not done so, I would carefully explore how he believes conversion to Orthodoxy will enhance his life and his religious and spiritual well-being, marital satisfaction and family stability. To that end, if I were you, I might ask him open-ended questions like the ones that appear below and refrain from providing specific counsel.
How will conversion to Orthodoxy enhance your life?
To what extent does your wife support your desire to convert?
How would conversion affect oneness and marital enhancement? You had this twice..
After conversion, what marital and family challenges do you expect to encounter?
How will conversion impact family stability?
How will your conversion impact your children's developmental needs?
How do you plan to practice Orthodoxy?
Is it God's will that you consider conversion at this time?
3. Based on this line of inquiry, he should be given the latitude to make his own decisions. Your role in this process should be a "not-knowing" role that is more “curious” and non-directive. Concurrently, you should provide a prayerful "safe zone" to help him discern God's will. Once he does, then you can begin to help him answer some of the above questions. Doing more at this time may be harmful to this marriage, children and family.
4. If his conversion has the potential to negatively impact marital satisfaction and family stability, such a conversion is not God's will. The Church's role is facilitate good conversions, to protect and help cultivate individual well-being, marital satisfaction, oneness and family stability. Balance, patience and agape is part and parcel of our theological tradition. The spirit of the law is much more important than the letter of the law. No semi-colons please..these are 2 strong sentences
5. If you follow this therapeutic process, it is my opinion that there will be room for God's will to work. If it is God's will, a new, holy homeostasis will emerge. What the new homeostasis will be, only God knows.
I hope these few thoughts have been of some help. Contact me if you have additional questions or want another second opinion.
Question: My fiancée is a practicing Episcopalian Christian. Does he need to be baptized an Orthodox Christian to marry me in the Orthodox Church?
Answer: In a word, no. As long as your fiancee has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and in water, and he can provide evidence of his baptism in the form of an official baptismal certificate, he will not have to be re-baptized in the Orthodox Church in order for you both to get married in the Orthodox Church.
With that stated, if you both haven't discussed the pros and cons of becoming a single church couple as opposed to remaining an Inter-Christian couple, I would urge you to do so. My extensive work with intermarried couples has taught me that whenever it is possible, the optimal way of worshiping God is as a single church couple where both partners are members of the same Christian faith group. If there are no good reasons precluding you both from becoming a single church couple, I would suggest you prayerfully consider this option. For example, if your partner chooses to convert, such a choice would permit you both to fully participate in the Liturgy and sacramental life of the Orthodox Church. This choice would also serve to enhance your efforts to cultivate marital satisfaction and oneness.
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Question: My fiancée is a Protestant Christian who has been previously married. Must he convert to Orthodox Christianity in order to marry me in the Orthodox Church?
Answer: The answer is no. However, I would suggest he prayerfully considers the pros and cons of conversion - especially considering the fact that he is serious about avoiding another mistake. Research clearly maintains that single church couples who belong to the same faith tradition and who pray together are more likely to stay together. Such couples generally tend to also enjoy higher levels of marital satisfaction.
Question: I have been with my boyfriend for almost 8 years and we are looking at getting married. Recently I discovered that the Greek Orthodox Church will not permit a Seventh Day Adventist and a Greek Orthodox to get married in the Orthodox Church. I don’t really understand why this is the case because on your website it says the Orthodox Church will marry two inter-Christian people as long as they have both been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit which is what my church does and they are a Christian religion. I was hoping you may have come across this before and could explain the Orthodox Church’s position.
Answer: This is a very complicated issue that is best left to theologians. Here are a few observations that may help you understand why the Orthodox Church does not accept Seventh Day Adventist's baptism.
Seventh Day Adventist theologian's perspectives and commentaries have at times tended to differ from (a) each other and (b) Orthodoxy theology. Some examples are as follows: The Last Judgment; the relationship of grace and salvation; "Law" in the New Testament and the duel law theory. As a result, because there appears to be no consensus among Seventh Day Adventists regarding these and other topics, it has been difficult for traditional churches like the Greek Orthodox Church to determine if Seventh Day Adventist theology is, in fact, Christian. This lack of consensus has also promoted Orthodox bishops to refuse to accept Seventh Day Adventist's baptism.
Question: I am thinking about converting to Greek Orthodoxy. My readings suggest that our religions don’t seem to differ too much and feel that I can have a better marriage and relationship with God if my partner and I were the same religion. We have spoken to a Greek Orthodox priest about this and he did explain some small differences between our religions but there was one question I was seeking further information about. In my religion we worship and keep the Sabbath day (Saturday) holy but in Greek Orthodoxy you worship on Sundays. Would you be able to expand on this and what the priest meant about also keeping the Sabbath day? My main concern about converting is related to this one commandment in the Bible about keeping the seventh day holy. What the Greek Orthodox church's perspective is on this commandment?
Answer: The Greek term Kyriake (translated, the Day of the Lord) is mentioned several times in the New Testament. References in St. Paul’s letters to Kyriake/Sunday indicate that the early church began to meet on Kyriake/Sunday rather than on the Sabbath to conduct the Divine Liturgy. The reason why this switch takes place is because Jesus resurrected on Kyriake/Sunday or the first day of the week.
Based on these changing traditions, the Orthodox Church continues to acknowledge the Sabbath as a day of rest, but it also celebrates the Divine Liturgy (it's main service) on Kyiake/Sunday (the day of the Lord) because Jesus Resurrected on Sunday or the first day of the week.
I hope this doesn't confuse you more.