USA OF MY HEART
Episcopalian Minister & Congregation Convert
in Frederick, Maryland, USA
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
It appears the fruits of St. John of San Francisco’s labors have paid off. After a year of instruction and a prayer, an Episcopalian clergymen and many from his congregation entered the Orthodox Church. While the members of the congregation became Orthodox Christians in April, their former minister was ordained to the Holy Priesthood a little over a week ago.
The now Fr. James Hamrick is pastor of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Frederick, MD. He was a minister in the United Methodist Church for years, but as he was looking for ancient faith, he found himself in the Charismatic Episcopal Church for a few years. At least until now. The CEC underwent a major rupture, causing the bishop who ordained Fr. Hamrick to question the notion of Protestantism altogether.
He said, he “believed that God’s authority was not only found in the Scriptures, as he felt Protestant churches emphasized, but also in the apostolic succession and sacred traditions.”
This invariably led him to Orthodoxy.
In keeping with the authentic, ancient liturgical and spiritual traditions of the Orthodox West, the new converts opted to be Western Orthodox. What does that look like? It resembles what an old Tridentine Roman Catholic Liturgy would look like, but in English. There are many variations to how Western Orthodox celebrate their liturgy (in many WO churches, they use the term ‘Mass’).For example, there is the Divine Liturgy of St. Ambrose which some use, as well as the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great (which resembles the ancient Pre-Vatican II Catholic Liturgy, but in English) and the Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon, which is similar to the Anglican Book of Common prayer.
All of these have been slightly modified to conform to Orthodox doctrine, such as deleting the Filioque clause from the Creed and commemorating Orthodox Bishops. These Western Orthodox Christians keep to the same spiritual heritage as was seen in the West before the Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. Will his conversion influence other Protestant clergy to bring their flocks to the historic Church? Time will tell.
It will be interesting to see if disillusioned Episcopalians, Methodists and Lutherans convert en masse to Orthodoxy, given the fact that both denominations now support homosexual clergy (with the United Methodist Church pursuing full communion with the Episcopalians, who passed similar measures recently), after an agreement of full communion was signed between the two last week.
The parishioners of St. John the Baptist have remodeled an old church to make it acceptable for Western Orthodox worship.A total of 26 people were received into the Orthodox Church, with other Orthodox supporting them. Today, Fr. Hamrick celebrated his first liturgy as an Orthodox priest. May God grant him and his parishioners many years!