Recent years have seen increasing numbers of Protestant and Catholic Christians converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In this book D. Oliver Herbel examines Christian converts to Orthodoxy who served as exemplars and leaders for convert movements in America during the twentieth century. These convert groups include Carpatho Rusyns, African Americans, and Evangelicals.
Religious mavericks have a long history in America--a tradition of being anti-tradition. Converts to orthodoxy reject such individualism by embracing an ancient form of Christianity even as they exemplify it by choosing their own religious paths. Drawing on archival resources including Rusyn and Russian newspapers, unpublished internal church documents, personal archives, and personal interviews, Herbel presents a close examination of the theological reasons for the exemplary converts' own conversions as well as the reasons they offered to persuade those who followed them. He considers the conversions within the context of the American anti-tradition, and of racial and ethnic tensions in America. Turning to Tradition offers the first serious investigation of this important trend in American religion and the first in-depth investigation of any kind of African-American Orthodoxy.
D. Oliver (Fr. Oliver) Herbel holds a doctorate in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He is the author of Sarapion of Thmuis: Against the Manichaeans and Pastoral Letters as well as articles and book chapters, many of which concentrate on Orthodox Christianity in America. He currently serves as the priest of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Fargo, ND, and as a chaplain in the North Dakota Air National Guard.
Turning to Tradition is a powerful and convincing argument for viewing Orthodoxy as something more than ethno-religiosity. Alongside the cradle Orthodox in this volume are a variety of converts--African-Americans, former Evangelicals, and former Eastern-Rite Catholics--each with its own story. In the process of telling their stories, Herbel shows how converts have substantially reshaped North American Orthodoxy. At a time when growing numbers opt out of Christian faith traditions, or choose a faith tradition they were not raised in, these American converts are crucial for understanding twenty-first-century Orthodox identity.
-Michael J. McClymond,
Saint Louis University
This fascinating and original study explores uncharted territory, namely the phenomenon of Christians from other church bodies who convert to (Eastern) Orthodox Christianity. Herbel introduces a really diverse selection of converts--from Bjerring and Alexis Toth to Moses Berry and Peter Gillquist. The scholarship is thorough, careful, and relevant, and the writing accessible. There is virtually no other published work on this topic.
Baruch College of the City University of New York
In a religiously pluralist society, inter-religious conversion is a live and familiar option. In this engaging and timely book D. Oliver Herbel makes a significant contribution to the study of intra-Christian conversion by narrating and analyzing the stories of four prominent 20th century converts to Orthodox Christianity in the U.S. whose conversion experiences exemplify American Restorationism by ironically professing a 'non-traditional tradition.' Students of Conversion, Religious Pluralism, American Religious History, and Eastern Orthodoxy in America will profit from reading this insightful text.
-Albert J. Raboteau,
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