I grew up as an evangelical Protestant. I loved my Protestant church and had no desire to leave it.
My conversion began with Dr. John Mark Reynolds, an Orthodox professor whom I admired immensely. In college, I joined a great books program he founded. Without knowing it, I learned many Orthodox ideas through Dr. Reynolds’ teaching and through the books we read, which included many by the church fathers. I also learned to challenge my assumptions and seek the truth – in Dr. Reynolds’ words, to “Follow the Logos wherever He leads.”
I knew very little about Orthodoxy, but I did have some early positive impressions. I went on class trips to Greece and Russia and was awed by the beauty of the Orthodox cathedrals. Some of Dr. Reynolds’ other students converted to Orthodoxy, including my favorite cousin, and they all obviously loved Jesus. I attended my cousin’s Orthodox wedding and enjoyed it.
After Dr. Reynolds’ teaching, I became increasingly uncomfortable with Protestant theology. I disagreed with every sermon I heard. I couldn’t unsee the problems with sola fide and other core doctrines. But I still loved my Protestant church. I did want to learn more about Orthodoxy someday, but not because I thought I would convert. I just thought I might find some good ideas to absorb into my increasingly unusual brand of Protestantism.
Years passed. I moved to Oregon, and providentially, one of the first friends I made, Laura, was a former Protestant turned Orthodox catechumen. Once we carpooled on a camping trip and I spent most of the six-hour drive grilling her about Orthodoxy, and at times arguing hard against it! She recommended Fr. Peter Gillquist’s Becoming Orthodox. I decided to read it – someday.
Then my Orthodox cousin wrote a book titled Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue, and I read it to support him. It included the best arguments I knew for sola scriptura, but I thought the arguments against sola scriptura were better. Shocked, I actually said out loud, “I don’t believe in sola scriptura anymore,” and then, “I need to look into Orthodoxy now.”
I immediately purchased Becoming Orthodox and read it straight through. Fr. Peter had been a Protestant much like me and I found his reasons for converting convincing. Deeply shaken, I asked Laura if I could come to church with her the next day.
I loved it. It was peaceful, beautiful, worshipful. I felt called to a better life, a life with Christ. And for the first time in years, I didn’t disagree with the sermon in any point.
Her parish was too far for me to attend regularly, but a couple months later, Laura came to St. John with me. There was no going back. Although I had loved it very much, suddenly my Protestant church seemed empty and irreverent by comparison. Soon, I was attending St. John’s every week and reading voraciously from the bookstore, both intellectual and spiritual books. I pestered Fr. Theodore with question after question. I was shocked by how easy he made my toughest questions seem.
It took two years, but eventually the church overcame my lingering Protestant beliefs and convinced me that this treasure was worth the hard work of fasting and confession and the pain of being out of step with my Protestant family and friends. On April 11, 2015, I was baptized into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Immediately I felt incredible peace flooding into me. I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back. I am home, and Christ is here, the longing of every heart.