My journey from the Reformed Protestant world into the ancient world of Orthodoxy has been both an awesomely wonderous and tumultuously painful experience. Following is a response to my Protestant pastor's letter in which he expressed concern about issues surrounding my departure in March of 2006, from the Christ Church community, in Moscow, Idaho.
I am writing in response to your letter dated, January 29th, 2007.
I am not going to address the specifics of your letter but I will address it in general.
First of all, as you are well aware of, I have had varying degrees of association with Christ Church since 1976. As a new believer, your father was the first person I met upon moving to Moscow in 1976 and I also participated in first class of, "The Practical School of Christianity". You and I also served together as elders for ten years with the church plant which I initiated in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1981. Throughout these past thirty-one years, I have kept a good conscious before our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and I have always strove with all my heart, soul, mind and strength to love the Lord God and serve Him faithfully. I can also say with all confidence, that I have sought for my entire married life to love my wife and my family as Jesus Christ loves His church. Additionally, I have always pursued peace with my family, my neighbors, my fellow members of Christ Church, as well as the leadership of Christ Church.
During the course of my journey through life many questions have remained unanswered, numerous dilemmas have left me perplexed and multiple mysteries have remained just that, mysteries. I came into the Protestant faith as a very broken man and for many years, I was sustained by the hope of God's word, the joy of living by the promises of God's word as well as experiencing the peace that came with keeping God's word. But as the years expired, my hope, my joy and my peace were challenged by what seemed to be inconsistencies and contradictions in what I read and what I saw lived out around me within the Protestant community. My initial and ongoing attraction to Christ Church was its commitment to unswervingly and with a single mind, fleshing out the word of God in every area of life, no matter what the costs. I believe this to be one of the reasons why Christ Church has grown and been so popular over the years.
It was probably around six years ago that I began to inwardly part ways with the teachings of Christ Church in a significant way. I don't think it is necessary in this letter to go into the details of what catalyzed the initial 'drawing away' but nevertheless, that is when I began to realize that I could not in good conscience embrace many practices and teachings of Christ Church. Of course, that left me in quite a dilemma, in that, the entirety of my life was intertwined with the Christ Church community. Thus, to pull away from Christ Church would have ripped at and damaged the very fabric of which made up the whole garment and I didn't want to injure others by pulling away.
So, for many years, in my mind, I was resolved to stay at Christ Church, so long as God kept me there, believing with all my heart, that in relation to the whole body, I was just a toe, and the toe could not say to the rest of the body, I am done with you and walk away. I saw myself as intimately connected to the Christ Church community and the only way for me to be separated from this community would be by an act of God working through Christ His Son, whom I believed to be the head and mind of the body, His church.
With that frame of mind, I continued to fellowship within the Christ Church community and in order to be at peace with my dear brethren, I endeavored to avoid controversy at all costs. But over the course of time, I found myself in unavoidable situations within the Christ Church community, which exposed principles and beliefs, which in good conscience before my God, I could not compromise on. It eventually came to the point where the differences were such that they began to significantly strain relationships not only within Christ Church but also with my own dear wife of thirty years. Again, without going into details, the stresses and strains brought upon my wife because of my ever growing differences with Christ Church practices and principles began to take their toll on our marriage.
All of these problems were further compounded by the lack of someone to talk to who could help me cope and deal appropriately with the dilemma I found myself in. That is until, January of 2006. It was at this time, that I met Dr. Matthew Steenburg, a Professor of Ancient Christianity at Oxford University in England, who comes to Moscow every Christmas to spend time with his parents who live here. While enjoying the benefits of the Bucers Pipe and Cigar Room, we talked about a subject, I had never in my life studied or even considered worth reading about; Ancient Christianity. In the course of our conversation, or put more appropriately, Dr. Steenburg's lucid explanation of Orthodoxy, questions that had lingered for years were being answered, mysteries that had been shrouded for as long as I can remember were being uncovered and dilemmas were being dissolved. That evening in Bucers was an epic moment in my life.
We spent the next two weeks in long discussions as he provided me with book after book to learn more about this fascinating topic of Orthodoxy. I then began alternating between attendance at Christ Church and St. John The Baptist Orthodox Church in Post Falls. Within a few months, I became a Catachumen of the Orthodox Church and began attending full time. Sadly, along with the joy of coming into Orthodoxy, I began to experience the grief of separating from the Christ Church community of which my family was an intimate part. During the course of making a transition into Orthodoxy from the Christ Church community, there were many misunderstandings, miscommunications and unresolvable differences that erupted in which attempts were made to bring resolution between Doug, my wife and me along with my new Orthodox pastor, Father Gregory.
The rest is history and this past year has been one of both learning a new way of life and dealing with the fallout from the dismantling of an old way of life. Unfortunately, the process has not been without pitfalls, tragedies and sorrows. Given the circumstances, I know of no other way this process could have evolved but I can say with confidence it isn't over yet and I continue to hold out hope that our family situation will be resolved in a peaceable and edifying manner.
I can also assure you that I will full fill my obligations and responsibilities as given to me by Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and by the power of His might working in me, that I will love my wife and my children with the redeeming and healing love of my Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Having given you, this statement, it is my earnest hope that you may forever enjoy the peace of God, the love of Jesus Christ and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Written the 11th day of February, 2007 by Gary Greenfield