Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Unexpected

(Some details in the following story have been changed to protect the innocent.)

A few weeks ago Athanasia and I were having a beautiful brunch with some friends and friends of friends at a place up in Napa. One of the couples turned out to be a former pastor of mine and his wife. He knew we had lived in San Francisco and asked if we had ever attended a certain famous Protestant church. As it so happened we had attended that church, and was shocked and saddened when we confirmed what he had heard about it. Then he asked how we became Orthodox. I told him and he told us about his experience in eastern Europe as a short-term evangelical missionary, and how he wished he had been more sensitive to the Orthodox Christians there. He was very full of regret.

After our time together I began to feel kind of bad about something. When a Protestant asks me "Why did you become Orthodox?" it is really hard to answer that in away that doesn't sound like "because Protestantism is wrong and Orthodoxy is right", especially when I only have 5 or 10 minutes to answer, and am experiencing some of the best food and drink ever. (Say what you will, the Ramos Gin Fizz is the best way to have your eggs in the morning.) So, for a couple of weeks I've been feeling bad about pretty much telling my former pastor,to his face, that he is wrong.

A couple of days ago, while waiting to talk to a loan officer about financing on a tri-plex, who should walk past me but that same former pastor of mine? We greeted each other and I took the opportunity to say, "I'm glad we ran into each other. I've really been feeling bad about what I said the other morning. It's hard to answer that question you asked in a way that isn't insulting to you. I'm sorry and I want you to know that there is nothing in my heart but thanksgiving for my Protestant up-bringing..."

Here he interrupted me and said," Oh! No, no, no. You didn't offend me at all, and besides, Protestantism isn't the destination. It's just the stepping stone to where you are now. I didn't say this the other morning, but the main reason I resigned from my position at the church is that I just didn't believe what they believe anymore. I would be sitting in the leaders meetings and be asking myself, 'are we even a valid church body?' And you can't be a pastor of a church if you have doubts like that."

I was astounded. I said, "No, no you can't. You really have to be on the same page as the other leaders.

"Yes, yes you do. Well, the people in the pews don't. They can go to church Sunday after Sunday for years and not really know what about the doctrinal...

"Right. The average church goer doesn't know about the doctrinal positions. No one takes out the Statement of Faith and preaches..."

"Right. But in the leadership doctrine is very important, and... Well, I really have to run. I'm glad we ran into each other. Pray for me."

"I will. I do."

And with that he walked past me and out the door of the bank.

Only later did I realize he was holding a book the whole time we were talking. I think it was Adversus Haereses by St. Irenaeus of Lyons.

Is my former pastor becoming Orthodox? Roman Catholic? I am amazed by the whole thing.


DebD said...

What a wonderful story! And, you are so right. It is hard to explain these things in 10min or less and not sound negative about our former tradition. In fact, I also had to make a similar phone call not that long ago to apologize to an old friend for very similar reasons.

I love the ended of your story thought! How exciting.

Anonymous said...

As always Matt you think your right and so do your church buddies,congrats.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.