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Phillip Johnson


Converted to the Past The appeal of Orthodoxy.

After 15 years as an Episcopalian priest, Gary Mathewes-Green could no longer tolerate being under the authority of apostate bishops. He and his wife, Frederica, both adult converts to Christianity who had attended seminary together, began looking for a denomination that still honored the traditional creeds and moral principles. The dissident Anglican branches wouldn't do, because Gary "felt he couldn't climb further out from the branch to a twig; if anything, he had to return to the trunk." The couple briefly considered the Roman Catholic Church, which allows married priests in Gary's situation, but they were repelled by some of the theology, by the authoritarianism, and by the prospect of working under the supervision of people whose thinking resembled that of the Episcopal bishops whom they were fleeing.

Gary eventually came to the Orthodox evangelist Fr. Peter Gillquist, who answered his theological questions, convincing him that Orthodoxy taught salvation by grace, not works. Frederica remained reluctant for a while to desert the sinking ship of liberalized Anglicanism, reasoning that there was a special need for chaplains on the deck of the Titanic. She also says that it is typical among couples converting to Orthodoxy for the husband to be gung-ho from the start, and for the wife to take more time getting used to the idea. True to form, Frederica now can't imagine ever not being Orthodox, writing that she "tasted and saw, and nothing can compare."

Facing East gives readers a chance to taste Frederica's experience and to compare it with their own. It is the story of a year in the life of Father Gary's young missionary congregation (Antiochean Orthodox) in the Baltimore area, a family diary of a liturgical year. I found it sufficiently charming to read aloud to my wife over several weeks in our after-dinner routine. We are Presbyterians who are just as satisfied with our local church (but not our denomination!) as Frederica is with her Orthodox community. Although ...

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