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Why Orthodox believers are converting to other Christian denominations

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
      http://indrus.in/society/2013/05/05/why_orthodox_believers_are_converting_to_other_christian_denomination_24509.html Why Orthodox believers are converting
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2013


      Why Orthodox believers are converting to other Christian denominations
      May 5, 2013Lyudmila Alexandrova, ITAR-TASS
      Many tend to agree that the conversion to other denomination is no betrayal. The Russian Orthodox Church however says that any talk about people fleeing Orthodoxy is absurd.

      Experts say there is a tendency in Russia,
      although a subtle one so far, of converting from the Russian Orthodox Church to
      other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Protestantism. This is
      because, they explain, believers often disagree with the position of the Russian
      Orthodox Church leaders on the most pressing problems of Russian society. In
      some cases, scandals around individual clergymen are to blame.

      A feature article on that topic recently
      published by the Novye Izvestia daily has triggered heated debates on internet
      forums. Many tend to share experts’ opinion and say that the conversion to other
      Christian denomination is no betrayal. The Russian Orthodox Church however says
      that any talk about people fleeing Orthodoxy is absurd.

      The newspaper cites one particular example
      when a man, Vladimir Tsykarev, converted to Catholicism 11 months ago. In his
      words, he was about to do so long ago, even before the notorious scandals over
      the patriarch’s luxurious watch, his exuberant apartment and “brutal
      pronouncements of the Russian Orthodox Church in respect of the backsliding
      women” (the girls from the Pussy Riot punk group). “I could no longer put up
      with their voicing man-hating ideas and appeals on behalf of myself as a
      Christian,” Tsykarev noted.

      The recent polls conducted by the Levada-Center public opinion agency
      demonstrate a six-percent decrease since 2009 in the number of those who reckon
      themselves among Orthodox believers. However there is no official statistics of
      conversion from Orthodoxy to other divisions within Christianity in Russia. But
      there are data about the number of officially registered Christian communities
      (parishes, monasteries, town churches, etc.) published by the ministry of
      justice. So, according to these data, by September 2012, there were 14,616
      Orthodox communities, 4,409 Protestant communities, and 234 Catholic

      “Both Catholic and Protestant communities are demonstrating explosive
      development and this tendency has been picking up in the past three years,” the
      newspaper cites Roman Lunkin, the president of the Guild of Experts in Religion
      and Law. As a matter of fact, he said, there are much more Protestant and
      Catholic organizations than listed in the justice ministry’s report. “Depending
      on the region, from a third to a half of communities are not registered,” he
      claims. “Only every third community in Russia is registered. Actually, we have
      about 15,000 Protestant communities,” says Professor Anatoly Pchelintsev of the
      Religions Study Centre under the Russian State University of the Humanities,

      According to opinion polls, from 56 to 80 percent of Russian nationals speak
      about themselves as Orthodox believers. Pchelintsev however maintains that the
      majority of them have no idea of the fundamentals of the religion and tend to
      call themselves Orthodox believers only by virtue of ethnic identity. The number
      of real Orthodox believers, experts say, is somewhere in the range between three
      to seven percent. And such people change their religion next to never.

      The Orthodox Church is tending to offer a state ideology instead of a pure
      religious doctrine, says Lunkin. “Along with the religion as such, or sometimes
      instead of the faith in Christ, the Russian Orthodox Church tends to propagate
      the faith in Holy Rus, in the state, in patriotic values, in United Russia [the
      ruling political party], anything but the faith in Christ. People who convert to
      other Christian denominations make a deliberate choice of pure religion,” he

      According to the expert, the recent scandal over Pussy Riot’s punk prayer
      also averted some from the Russian Orthodox Church. Not because people
      sympathize with the girls but rather because they “see Orthodoxy as a cog in the
      state machine, which lacks mercy and commitment to gospel commandments.”

      “We are witnessing a kind of faith crisis in Russia. And it stems from the
      unethical behaviour of Orthodox priests involved in ether car crashes or illegal
      construction works. It averts people from the church,” Pchelintsev says.

      The newspaper reminds that in the midst of the Pussy Riot scandal, such
      people as Deacon Sergei Baranov and Rodion Popov of the Institute of the Bible
      Translation publicly severed their relations with the church. Notably, but in
      December 2012 Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said he knew nothing
      about conversion from Orthodoxy triggered by media scandals. “Loud statements”
      by some persons about their losing faith in the Russian Orthodox Church proves
      only that “these people have never belonged to the church either in their faith
      or in their way of life,” the patriarch then said.

      In one of his interviews, another church official, the head of the Synodal
      department for relations between the Church and society, Archpriest Vsevolod
      Chaplin, also said that any talk about conversion from Orthodoxy was absurd.
      “Yes, there is a small number of people who swerved from the church. But in the
      past two or three years, most of unbelievers or half-believers have come to
      Orthodoxy,” he said.

      Meanwhile, the subject raised by the Novye Izvestia has drawn a wide public
      response in the web. Thus, a user nicknamed Dima123 says it does not matter
      which denomination is chosen to serve Christ. “The matter is that many things
      that happen in the Russian Orthodox Church avert people from it, but it in no
      way means that one should rush immediately to another denomination. Neither it
      means that this is good,” he writes.

      Another web user, Igor Petrov, writes about what he dislikes about Orthodoxy.
      “I have not yet seen prayer books in the modern Russian language. I can hardly
      endure an Orthodox service to the very end, not because it is difficult for me
      to stay standing on feet but because I understand next to nothing in what is
      sung by the priests or the choir,” he writes in his post. Sometimes, he writes,
      a conversation with a priest during the confession brings no conciliation
      because “some priests demonstrate a very formal approach.” “This is why I began
      to read books about Protestantism, which affirms the priesthood of all
      believers, when a man communicates directly to God without any priests.”

      “Although being baptized as an Orthodox (and being an ethnic Russian), I
      converted to Protestantism,” writes Yevgeny. “I do not think of myself as a
      betrayer. I share Igor Petrov’s feelings about Orthodoxy. More to it, the
      aggressive criticism by Orthodox believers of Protestantism or Catholicism is
      repulsing. I have been a Protestant for more than a year and I have no regrets
      about it.”

      “The problems are quite understandable,” writes Irina Dmitriyeva. “I see
      nothing awful when people depart from the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow
      Patriarchate to try to give meaning to their faith.”

      First published in ITAR-TASS.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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