Many people have expressed interest to me about joining the Orthodox Church but don’t know how, especially since so many Orthodox Churches seem to revolve around ethnicity. For new converts who want to experience the Divine Liturgy in mostly English, however, the choice is not difficult.

First, allow me to give a quick background on the Orthodox Church. There are two main branches: Eastern Orthodox, which is what most people see as “the Orthodox Church,” and Oriental Orthodox. The latter is a much smaller branch serving mostly the Armenians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, and Indians. For all intents and purposes, you will not join an Oriental Orthodox Church unless you marry into it or have a particularly strong interest in one of the cultures.

The Eastern Orthodox Church comprises all other churches such as the Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, and so on. Each church is under the authority of a patriarch. If you’re coming from Catholicism, the patriarch is like a fallible mini-Pope who has far less authority to exert top-down control of the Church.

Most of the ethnic churches conduct their Divine Liturgy in languages that are no longer spoken (Armenians conduct theirs in Classical Armenian, so I use a service book that contains an English translation). It would make sense for you to join a church that conducts at least some of the Divine Liturgy in English to ease your transition into a more eastern form of worship. There are three churches that I can recommend:

Antiochian Orthodox Church. The Antiochian Church comes in two types. One is mostly for Syrians and the other is mostly for converts. You want the one for converts. If the priest of a particular church doesn’t have a Syrian name, and pictures of the parishioners online are not all Syrian, you have the right church. I have visited Antiochian churches in Salt Lake City, Portland, San Diego, and Austin. They ranged from multicultural (Salt Lake City) to having mostly Protestant converts (Austin). From what I’ve seen, the Antiochians are extremely faithful to Orthodoxy.

ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). Now part of the Russian Orthodox Church, ROCOR was originally created by bishops fleeing Bolshevism who wanted to preserve the doctrines and faith of Orthodoxy. Many ROCOR parishes conduct an English liturgy with some Slavonic. My two favorite monasteries in America, Holy Cross in Wayne, West Virginia and Holy Trinity in Jordanville, New York, are ROCOR monasteries.

Orthodox Church of America (OCA). The OCA branched off from the Russian Orthodox Church not long ago, and like the Antiochians, maintain the eastern mysticism that will not remind you of an American megachurch. I attended one OCA church in Denver and found it similar to the Divine Liturgy of ROCOR. My main concern about this church is that it’s American; I am distrustful of American institutions and am not sure that the OCA can resist the inevitable subversion attempts by forces of evil, but as of today, the OCA seems suitable. Unfortunately, this Church was closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic, a potentially bad sign that they are in tune with secular authorities, but if you become a member of this church and later change your mind, you can join and receive communion from other Eastern Orthodox Churches without having to be baptized or chrismated again.

Two additional options to consider:

The Russian Orthodox Church. While it can depend on the parish, Russians are not bubbly to strangers, and it could be difficult to insert yourself into their community. That said, their Divine Liturgy is excellent and their faith pure. If you want to remain “anonymous” and not have small talk with others, this could be a good option.

The Greek Orthodox Church. Many non-Greeks join this church because of its reputation and history, but the Greek Orthodox Church in America is rapidly going down the road of secularism by virtue signaling on issues like racism and global warming. Most recently, their bishop attended a Black Lives Matter protest. Even though there is a Greek Orthodox Church in most American cities, I cannot personally advise you to join this Church unless you have absolutely no other option.

My recommendation is to attend the Divine Liturgy of at least two churches and stay for the fellowship period (coffee hour) if it’s available. If you like the liturgy, meet the priest and give him an abbreviated version of your life story. Does he seem like a man who could be your spiritual guide? Ask him about the process of becoming a catechumen with the intention of getting baptized and/or chrismated.

If you’ve never been to an Orthodox church, there are a variety of rituals that can feel intimidating, such as making the sign of the cross, venerating the icons, bowing, and lighting a candle. You don’t need to do any of them. Simply stand or sit with the congregation and no one will view you as disrespectful. As for dress, wear something that covers your arms and legs. Many people wear short-sleeve shirts, especially in the summer, but it’s better not to. If you’re a woman, take a headscarf just in case (it is strongly advised for ROCOR and Russian Orthodox churches).

After you visit the Orthodox churches in your area, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Which church will allow me to get closest to God? At the end of the day, this is why you go. Do you feel that the church will aid in the development of your faith, and ultimately your salvation?

2. Which church is likely to resist secular winds? You don’t want a church that is going to implement changes to fit in with the world.

3. Which church has the ultimate truth? While this is much harder to discern, the more mistakes or errors a Church has, the less grace you may receive from God from following its doctrines. Since all the Churches I recommended to you are Eastern Orthodox, you should not find major theological differences between them.

Don’t fall into the temptation of picking a church that gives you more mating options. It should not be relevant if a church has attractive singles, and if you are looking for a church with that in mind, you are not putting God first before your worldly needs.

Another temptation is to gravitate towards the church that is more “entertaining,” which is more of a problem with Protestant churches that feature amplified music bands. Instead, seek the church that is most holy. Did you feel moved during the Divine Liturgy? Do you feel that the Holy Spirit is in the church? Remember that it’s all for God.

I once suggested to my priest that the Armenian Church needs an English diocese. “I’m sending a lot of people to other Orthodox Churches,” I exclaimed. My priest replied, “If we stopped doing the Badarak in Armenian, would we still be the Armenian Church?” Good point. Whatever the case, I continue to serve in my baptismal Orthodox church while helping others find Orthodoxy as well. In a post-coronavirus world where joining a church is more difficult than before, pray to God that He may help you find one that leads to your salvation.

Read Next: How I Pray

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Sad as this is to say, the Greeks are on what appears to be a one-way track in the wrong direction. They are getting a reputation as the “safe haven“ of leftists, led by the new Archbishop who publicly honored Ruth Bader Ginsburg after marching with BLM. For now it’s still an Orthodox Church with valid mysteries, but if you can’t stomach the thought of such “leadership” then you’ll be better off looking elsewhere. They are not currently in communion with ROCOR, for reasons unrelated (at least superficially) to the Archbishop’s actions.

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The upside is that I'd rather all the leftists and subversives head to GOARCH than infect the other jurisdictions.

What would really become problematic is if GOARCH managed to consolidate all jurisdictions in the US into one, with them at the top. Lots of jurisdictions isn't ideal, but it's better than suddenly having your conservative parish at the whims of Elpidophoros.

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At this rate they seem more interested in rejoining Rome, but given Bartholomew’s belief in his own primacy it wouldn’t surprise me if he tried that either.

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Informative post. I'd like to give church another try. I am a non-denominational Christian, but I am most interested in the Orthodox Church. I was going to a Presbyterian Church that I had a few friends at, but it started having SJW vibes so I want to find something else.

I just searched for a local church and found two nearby. In one, they are still closed from the Coronavirus and the priest is wearing a mask during the Divine Liturgy. The second one has a black priest (nothing against that), and has a picture of a statue on the front page that gives off strong Marxist/postmodern vibes: https://crossbearing.org/ Maybe I shouldn't write off the church based on that statue alone... but just look at it. Reminds me of the "mural" under the Eiffel Tower.

It is disheartening, but I am not going to give up.

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I think that statue actually looks pretty cool. It's St. Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross for Jesus. It's rare to see Eastern Orthodox statues in the United States, which may be why it seems jarring at first. Statues are generally more associated with Roman Catholicism here, though Western Rite Orthodoxy also uses them. I'd go and experience a service, either Vespers or the Divine Liturgy, and talk to people afterward to get a feel for the community before making any decisions.

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Sad as this is to say, the Greeks are on what appears to be a one-way track in the wrong direction. They are getting a reputation as the “safe haven“ of leftists, led by the new Archbishop who publicly honored Ruth Bader Ginsburg after marching with BLM. For now it’s still an Orthodox Church with valid mysteries, but if you can’t stomach the thought of such “leadership” then you’ll be better off looking elsewhere. They are not currently in communion with ROCOR, for reasons unrelated (at least superficially) to the Archbishop’s actions.

Depends on your Metropolitan. I fall under Metropolitan Isaiah, who was a Marine and is very strong anti-SJW. While Elpidophoros has administrative seniority, since they are both bishops, Isiah does not report to and is not communed by Elpidophoros. I heard him give a sermon in January where he condemned victim culture and railed against the sort of things Elpidophoros bad publicly praised.

The Greek preists here in Houston under Isaiah are very traditional and not SJW friendly. If in Houston area I strongly encourage you to go to St Basil's. Fr Luke is excellent.

That being said, if I were in Chicago or one of the other areas, I might be pursuing an Antiochian Church or something else. So I'd just say, it is region specific.

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I think that statue actually looks pretty cool. It's St. Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross for Jesus. It's rare to see Eastern Orthodox statues in the United States, which may be why it seems jarring at first. Statues are generally more associated with Roman Catholicism here, though Western Rite Orthodoxy also uses them. I'd go and experience a service, either Vespers or the Divine Liturgy, and talk to people afterward to get a feel for the community before making any decisions.

Thank you for clearing that up. With all the stuff going on, my surface impression of that statue was: "black man strong and proud looking, Jesus looking submissive" reminded me of all the postmodern and cultural marxist stuff of putting down Christianity and people with European heritage. I feel a bit foolish for the mistake. I will look at it as a learning opportunity and a reminder that, no matter how fallen and corrupted the world of man is, I shouldn't be quick to jump to conclusions.

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Understandable given where this country’s at.

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The Orthodox Church is very fulfilling. I have been Greek Orthodox since birth; it’s very solemn and serious and the beauty of Divine Liturgy is that it is unchanging in the face of external issues and pressures.

For those looking to convert, The Greek church overall has multiple issues. Language barrier - I speak fluent Greek, read and write etc. I don’t understand a lot of the service in Greek because the syllables change somewhat to fit in with the choir and hymns. As a side note I understand everything on Greek television, music, and also know regional slang and terms. But the service in Greek is hard to decipher and the English version loses some of the mystique and meaning.

The church also has hardly any outreach. We have been derelict in recruiting new members and maintaining older ones. There is an entire lost generation of people in their 50 and above. They maybe married outside the faith, didn’t learn the language etc and have completely lost touch with their religious roots. I have read 70% of Greek Americans have no connection to orthodoxy.

The church has also lost touch with reality. Priests are often over payed, insulated, unaccountable, and incompetent. The insistence of The patriarchate to only have an archbishop born outside the US is a terrible decision. Add to this the political leaning of the Manhattan office crowd which influence the twitter sphere and public statements, and people with theology degrees making accounting and financial decisions and you have what the church is currently experiencing. A financial and identity crisis while being completely out of touch with its laity.

All of those negatives (and they are significant) still don’t outweigh the potential positives of a close and honest relationship with god. If I were a non Greek speaking convert however, I’d look to the a few other options in the tiers of orthodoxy first.

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The only real reason to go to a GOARCH parish these days is if you're Greek or it's the only Orthodox parish near you - which unfortunately seems to be common for many people, as there seem to be many more Greek churches than other dioceses.

This is just a wild guess, but I'm assuming Greek immigrants are/historically were more numerous and wealthier than Russians, Syrians, Serbians, Romanians, etc. and had more resources to support their jurisdiction. But today, ROCOR, Antiochian, and OCA are far more visitor-friendly than the Greek archidiocese.

At the ROCOR parish I'm attending there are new visitors every week, and about fifteen of us will be baptized in the next cohort. At least at our parish there's not any ethnocentrism, the head priest is an American and in addition to Russians there are Georgians, Romanians, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans in addition to many American converts. The big obstacle is that most of those being baptized are young, single, white males of the type who read this forum - and there are basically no marriageable girls at our parish, all the young women are already married and have children. I'm married so this isn't an issue for me, but it will be for a lot of guys if the Church keeps growing along these lines.

It seems like there is rapidly-increasing interest in Orthodoxy among those from evangelical (like myself) and Roman Catholic backgrounds, but I don't think we've ever hit the real growth spurt yet. I expect that as the socio-political situation and state of other churches in America and the Western world deteriorates, more and more Christians from other traditions will start to take a hard look at Orthodoxy.

On top of that, it's clear that Orthodoxy has a much larger footprint in the online world today than it did in years past, with a lot of resources available on YouTube and elsewhere that are helping to spread awareness and information about the faith.

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Is there anyone to help me find an Orthodox Church in Australia as the Catholic one is not my cup of tea (PM?).

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I could be totally wrong but doesn't Australia have a large Greek population especially in the big cities like Sydney or Melbourne?

I don't know if that works for you, but it could be a start.

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For those looking to experience the Divine Liturgy—be it through Orthodoxy, or the Eastern Catholic Church—check out LiveLiturgy.com, a site I launched at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, currently listing 371 parishes/monasteries/seminaries across 16 countries streaming services online.

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For those looking to experience the Divine Liturgy—be it through Orthodoxy, or the Eastern Catholic Church—check out LiveLiturgy.com, a site I launched at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, currently listing 371 parishes/monasteries/seminaries across 16 countries streaming services online.

You have a typo. This church is in New York City, not Washington DC:
screenshot-liveliturgy.com-2021.04.08-11_25_55.png

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You have a typo. This church is in New York City, not Washington DC:
View attachment 30165

Thank you, Roosh... fixed!

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