Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Orthodox Churches Have More Converts Than Expected, Study Says

Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Orthodox Churches Have More Converts Than Expected, Study Says

Article excerpt

A new survey of Orthodox Christians in America has found a larger-than-expected number of converts, mostly from Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant backgrounds.

The report, released by the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, California, surveyed 1,000 members of Greek Orthodox and Orthodox Church in America congregations--two denominations, or jurisdictions, that represent about 60 percent of the estimated 1.2 million Orthodox Christians in the U.S.

Although historically Orthodox churches in the U.S. were formed and peopled by immigrants, the study found that nine out of ten parishioners are now American-born. Thousands of members converted to the faith as adults: 29 percent of members of the Greek Orthodox Church are converts, as are 51 percent of the OCA's members.

"I would not have expected this many," said Alexei Krindatch, the Orthodox Institute's research director. "My sense was that for the Greek Orthodox, it would be around 15 percent, and OCA maybe one-third."

The study also found unexpectedly high numbers of converts among clergy--56 percent in the OCA, 14 percent in the Greek Orthodox Church. In both cases, the higher OCA numbers reflect that group's use of English in its worship services, he added.

These findings could mean that Orthodox churches are growing in America, if there aren't equal or greater numbers of Orthodox Christians leaving for other faiths; researchers won't know until they conduct a 2010 membership census. …

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