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If you are a convert, what made you choose Oriental Orthodoxy?

LivenotoneviL

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I want to hear your experiences, in light of the whole Chalcedonian controversy, what made you choose Oriental Orthodoxy over Eastern Orthodoxy?
 

Poemen

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For me it was simply because it was the first Orthodox Church I went to. The warm community filled the gaps of everything I missed in life, Abouna at the church dealt peacefully and humbly with me despite my attempts to debate with him (I was part of the "New Apostolic Revival" at the time). When the time came about that that I learnt of Chalcedon, I was definitely ready to go to an Eastern Orthodox parish instead, but it became apparent things weren't all it scratched up to be through the explicit confession of miaphysitism in our Divine Liturgy, and when I started to read up on the situation I found it clear that that neither Sts. Severus or Dioscorus are monophysites. With this I have difficulty professing that the fathers of the council of Chalcedon were lead by the Holy Spirit in the acts they made, and remain Oriental Orthodox.

(As a note, I don't mean this in any hostile sense, I definitely do believe the Eastern Orthodox to be completely Orthodox).
 

WPM

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Coptic Liturgy and Desert Fathers
 

peterfarrington

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I chose Orthodoxy and it turned out that the way I could become Orthodox was among the Copts. But now I deliberately and definitely choose Oriental Orthodoxy, though not as if Eastern Orthodoxy were not Orthodox.
 

Nicholas_83

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Two things. Shortly after being Chrismated EO I read a book by Pope Shenouda of blessed memory on the nature of Christ. The OO seemed to make more sense. A bit more academic time by Catholics Karekin the First further convinced me.
Second; I had trouble finding a parish a reasonable distance from home (I ended up moving about an hour from any Orthodox Church) where I felt I could be part of the community rather than a welcomed guest. I found that at my Coptic parish; especially through the help of my confessing Father; Abouna Jacob Zaki.
While I was chrismated into the Coptic church I do NOT consider the EO heterodox. May God unite us.
 

NJC

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LivenotoneviL said:
I want to hear your experiences, in light of the whole Chalcedonian controversy, what made you choose Oriental Orthodoxy over Eastern Orthodoxy?
Well, initially, i didn't choose Oriental Orthodoxy. I was Baptised and Chrismated in to the (Greek) Eastern Orthodox Church. However, the Greeks have a bad reputation amongst converts in my country because their Archbishop Stylianos is a famous Hellenist and intolerant of anything not Greek and has forbidden the use of English in liturgies on Sunday mornings. It's only because he is old and sick now that some Priests are able to sneak some snippets of English in on a Sunday morning under the radar. But unfortunately due to this and many other problems the Greek Orthodox Church is a demographic wasteland - i was one of the only people at my church between the ages of 18 and 45.... the rest were retiree's and older.

I have always had a pro-English, missionary and evangelistic mindset, even before i was Baptised, and every time i tried to start something i was shot down and told that it would never work because i wasn't ethnically Greek and the people wouldn't support me. So i struggled for a year or two, and even questioned my decision to become Orthodox a fair few times. There was a serious temptation to return to the Catholic Church from which i came, and i even started going back to my local Latin Mass occasionally in secret.

At about this time, at a Bible study at one the Greek churches (which wasn't actually a Bible study but the Priest just lecturing us on whatever he felt like talking about) a Coptic girl at the invitation of one her Greek friends from the Bible study. I had always known of the Copts, and while i believed they were "Monophosyte" i still had great respect for them because of the persecutions they were and had endured in Egypt. So i got talking to her and pestered her with questions about the Copts (as is my inquisitive nature). She found out that the suburb i lived in was actually close to a Coptic Orthodox Church (which was so dilapidated i had never visited because i assumed it was closed down), and that Coptic church had a really active congregation within the community. She said they have an outreach program where they feed the homeless in my suburb (literally a few hundred metres from my house) every Monday night and suggested i go down and help out - which i did.

I went down and was assuming it was going to be run mainly by old Egyptian women as in the Greek Orthodox Church it's only old Greeks who do cooking, but i was pleasantly surprised at meeting 30 or so (which i now know to be 30 out of a pool of over 100 volunteer from this church) young Coptic Orthodox youth, and that this mission - St Mary's Outreach Service - was actually a youth-led missions. I remember being so in awe of these Coptic youth, and their commitment to both Christ and their fellow man, with their prayers before and after the service and i just felt like i was home when i was around them.

I ended up that week going to their Coptic Church every night of the week for different activities and Bible studies, and then ended up going to the Saturday morning English mass, then Saturday evening Vespers, then Sat evening Bible study, then Sat evening Midnight praises, then Sunday morning Mass..... Obviously i fell in love with the Coptic church.

But as i have posted on here before, it wasn't all easy. I still struggled for a while. I studied the Council of Chalcedon till i was blue in the face. I studied their dectrine. But i was hesitant to fully become Coptic Orthodox because Abouna (both the Abouna's of this church are some of the best priests i have ever met - there is just something about Coptic Priests and how holy and how good they are!) said that i would need to be Chrismated to join the Coptic Church, which he insisted he didn't believe in but they were the rules. I eventually found out the reason why that is the case, and it has to do with the rudeness and arrogance displayed toward the Copts by Greek Bishops when they were approached by the Copts to drop the mutual anathema's between the two Churches.

After 6 months of soul seaching and prayer, living between the two churches, i finally made the decision last week to leave the Eastern Orthodox Church and become Coptic Orthodox. I had Confession, Chrismation and my first Holy Communion in 6 months (my spiritual father in the Greek church stopped me from having Communion while i was discerning where i belonged). Actually, the catalyst for this decision happened at Easter/Pascha:

Despite the use of some English on Sunday's and the occasional English Saturday liturgy with the Greeks, every Christmas and Holy Week everything would revert back to full Greek for all the "once or twice a year" Greeks. And the clergy could have cared less about it. After each of the previous two Holy Weeks i had experienced i promised myself that i would never do another Holy Week with the Greeks. The lack of reverence, the lack of English, and the sheer disinterestedness of most really disheartened me, and the Greek became for me like nails on a chalk board.

After my experience with the Copts, i considered doing Holy Week with the Copts, and in fact on the Sunday of Palm Sunday evening i went to their first service and lo and behold it was in all English (with some Coptic). In fact for the entire Holy Week they had two services running at the same time, one in Coptic/Arabic in the church for the older Copts, and one outside in a tent which was youth led and mainly in English. It was the most beautiful service and i fell in love with the chants! But that was the only service i went to.

For the rest of the week i went and stayed at the Monastery (The Greek church i went to was actually a Monastery). I don't know why i did it. I thought i would give the Greeks one last chance. I wanted to be loyal to my spiritual father and Godparents. i was still afraid this was a temptation and i wanted to truly know if it was Gods will i stayed or left. I actually stayed at the Monastery for the week in the guest house and went to every service. It was a period of continual warfare for me. I served as a chanter and the Greek chanters had no idea what they were doing (they were laymen who couldn't read Byzantine notation so made the chants up as they went) and talked the whole way through the services. The whole thing was in Greek.

By the Saturday of Pascha i couldn't wait to leave. I felt no solace at all, and felt like an alien in a foreign land. By the time the service ended i had made up my mind i was leaving and never coming back. I knew i didn't belong there. I was meant to go and break the fast with the monks at their house and stay the night but i jumped in my car and went home with every intention of never returning. Despite how traumatising that week was for me, it galvanised my decision to become Coptic Orthodox. I realised that the Greek Church was affecting me so badly it would probably make me leave the Orthodox church if i stayed. So i left.

I am at peace with my decision, and while i still hold some grudges and resentment to the Greek Orthodox i pray that i am healed of this in time. I met some wonderful, Saintly people there and miss my Godparents in the Greek church above all. So what made me leave? I guess i have always had an idea in my head of what the Orthodox Christian life should look like, and the Greeks had a different way. They emphasised personal piety and were condescending toward any outreach or missionary endeavor.... Whereas the Copts to me seemed to have kept this spirit of love for their fellow man - regardless of ethnic background - and desire that all men should come to Christ.

I also feel as though the prayer life, the liturgical life and the Sunday school program of the Coptic church is far better than in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and if i ever raised a family i know i want my children in the Coptic church. If you haven't already, then study Habib Girgis and the Sunday School Movement in Egypt - this is what will save the West!!!

However, i fully believe the Eastern Orthodox are fully Orthodox, but as for me i believe the Copts were right in rejecting Chalcedon, although i wish it never happened and we were still in Communion.

So for me, in a nutshell, the reasons were: The number of youth still actively in the church (for me that meant Christian friends and a potential wife one day, which was never going to happen with the demographics of the Greeks), the outreach and evangelism programs of the Copts, the Bible studies which i craved and of which there were none with the Greeks, the sheer holiness of the Abouna's, my agreement with the non-chalcedonian theologians, my love of the Coptic liturgy (it's length, the chants, etc).

Another important note is that i was also really opposed to the Greek Bishops and Archbishops in Australia. None of them speak English, they were all Greek nationalists sent out from Constantinople, were all old, uninspiring, and basically caretakers of church dying out, with no answers and no sense of urgency. I used to refuse to meet them for fear of saying something to them i shouldn't. They reminded me of Catholic Bishops, such was their irrelevance.

But i have met both Coptic Bishops of Australia, and was in awe of their holiness... they were monks and men of prayer first, and Bishops second. You could feel their warmth and love for everyone. They were both born and raised in Australia (the Copts having the common sense to ordain Priests and Bishops native to the country they are to serve in!), and spoke fluent English. When they visited us, they conducted Bible studies in English and conducted English mass's for us. They bless English language missions all over the country, and are active in foreign missions in places under our jurisdiction like Fiji and the Pacific Islands.

For me the contrast between the Greeks and the Copts were night and day. I love the fact that apart from some Coptic the Copts are not attached to their native tongue - Arabic - seeing it as the language of their oppressors, and having won freedom from their oppressors by coming to countries like Australia they are so eager to translate eevrything in to English for us and share with us the gifts of their beautiful, ancient Faith.

So there you have it, they are all the main reasons i chose to become Coptic Orthodox, instead of Eastern Orthodox.

I am at peace knowing that i now look forward to the next Holy Week, where instead of being in turmoil, i get to focus on the real importance of the week by chanting and singing praises to God, with all my friends, in English. I get to really learn the chants, the hymns, the lessons of the week, the Scripture readings etc. I can't wait for the next Holy Week! Thank God he opened this door for me.

God bless
 

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As for Chalcedon specifically, i recommend reading Fr. V.C Samuels book "The Council of Chalcedon re-examined". That will explain to you, using the words of the men at the Council, why the non-Chalcedonians were justified in rejecting the Chalcedonian definition.

If you want a shorter, briefer introduction to the issues, i reccomend this by Abouna Peter Farrington:

"THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX REJECTION OF CHALCEDON

The Oriental Orthodox are routinely accused of holding an heretical and Eutychianist Christology, and on that basis rejecting the Council of Chalcedon. Yet the evidence, from the time of Chalcedon, through the following centuries, and even to the present day, shows clearly that this is not the case.

Chalcedon was rejected for wholly Orthodox concerns, and though it might be the case that the text of the Chalcedonian Definition is liable to an Orthodox interpretation, it is nevertheless also the case that these concerns were not properly addressed at the time, or at any time following the council. They remain legitimate issues which the Chalcedonian Orthodox should at least make some effort to comprehend and understand."


Read the rest here:
http://www.stgeorgeministry.com/oriental-orthodox-rejection-chalcedon/

God bless

Text shortened to conform with forum rules.
-Ainnir

 

Ainnir

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Thank you for sharing your conversion story, NJC.  I'm happy to hear you've found resolution and peace.  :)
 

Poemen

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NJC said:
(it's length, the chants, etc)
Haha, it's your Adelaidean friend here, I'm glad you adapted to these things, since I recall last time we spoke I think I said that I have so much difficulty with the short length of EO liturgies.
 

LBK

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NJC said:
However, the Greeks have a bad reputation amongst converts in my country because their Archbishop Stylianos is a famous Hellenist and intolerant of anything not Greek and has forbidden the use of English in liturgies on Sunday mornings. It's only because he is old and sick now that some Priests are able to sneak some snippets of English in on a Sunday morning under the radar.
This is completely untrue. I have it on excellent authority that English was first introduced into Greek DLs for the Epistle, Gospel, Creed, and the Lord's Prayer at least as far back as the early 1970s, years before Abp Stylianos took his post in 1975.

Since then, not only have these parts of the DL been chanted/read in both languages as standard, but increasing proportions of the DL, such as litanies, are also chanted in English. Also, Abp Stylianos' pastoral letters, read out by parish clergy at Easter and Christmas in lieu of the homily, have been in both Greek and English for most, if not all, of his tenure in Australia. I've also been told of parishes which conduct regular English-only DLs. It is impossible to conclude that all this English usage has been "under the radar" for close to fifty years.
 

NJC

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Poemen said:
NJC said:
(it's length, the chants, etc)
Haha, it's your Adelaidean friend here, I'm glad you adapted to these things, since I recall last time we spoke I think I said that I have so much difficulty with the short length of EO liturgies.
Hello my friend from Adelaide! When are you coming back for a visit? Yes it took me a while to adjust to the chanting and the length of the liturgy.... it's actually gotten a lot easier since my Chrismation (which was last Saturday btw, did i tell you?). I did go back to the Monastery a few weeks ago and was surprised when it was over so quickly! Haha
 

NJC

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LBK said:
NJC said:
However, the Greeks have a bad reputation amongst converts in my country because their Archbishop Stylianos is a famous Hellenist and intolerant of anything not Greek and has forbidden the use of English in liturgies on Sunday mornings. It's only because he is old and sick now that some Priests are able to sneak some snippets of English in on a Sunday morning under the radar.
This is completely untrue. I have it on excellent authority that English was first introduced into Greek DLs for the Epistle, Gospel, Creed, and the Lord's Prayer at least as far back as the early 1970s, years before Abp Stylianos took his post in 1975.

Since then, not only have these parts of the DL been chanted/read in both languages as standard, but increasing proportions of the DL, such as litanies, are also chanted in English. Also, Abp Stylianos' pastoral letters, read out by parish clergy at Easter and Christmas in lieu of the homily, have been in both Greek and English for most, if not all, of his tenure in Australia. I've also been told of parishes which conduct regular English-only DLs. It is impossible to conclude that all this English usage has been "under the radar" for close to fifty years.
[i[/i]


I may edit out some of my comments, as i don't want to get in trouble. But suffice to say if what you say is true, it has not been my experience. I have been told on good authority, from within the Greek hierarchy, that nothing can be done until this Archbishop passes away. Regardless, it is no longer any of my business, and i could care less. I experienced great pain, and kept being told we have to wait for a new Archbishop, and this one is determined to hang on for as long as he can. You may disagree, but this is what i have been told.

There are English liturgies conducted by Greeks though, just not on a Sunday. I see them advertised for Saturday mornings, Saturday evenings, first Monday of every months, every second Tuesday, etc etc.... Just not on Sunday.
 
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