Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Detroit Becomes Foothold for Orthodox Resurgence

By The Associated Press
Tue, Jan. 23 2007 04:49 PM ET

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit is emerging as a national center for the rebirth of Orthodox Christian churches, which have deep ethnic roots in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Social scholars say the churches are growing in the United States through immigration and conversion. Next week, many of Detroit's Orthodox leaders will host the first in a series of conferences planned nationwide for non-Orthodox clergy who want to explore conversion.

The Rev. John Fenton is betting his life on the growing popularity of Orthodox Christianity. He and his wife have packed up their six children from the rectory of a Detroit church where he was a Lutheran pastor until late October. They've moved into a small home in Allen Park, leaving behind Fenton's clergy salary and, soon, his health insurance.

"My wife and I have spent a lot of time in prayer about this whole move, and it is difficult, but we do believe that God is leading us," Fenton told the Detroit Free Press.

On Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 in Troy Fenton plans to join a small number of clergy nationwide choosing ordination as Orthodox priests. Fenton has lined up 16 former Lutherans as charter members of a new Orthodox parish he plans to open.

Why the fresh interest? Fenton said many Christians feel battered by theological controversies in their own churches. In contrast, he said, Orthodoxy represents an oasis of Christian tradition with its centuries-old style of worship and timeless celebration of the mysterious power of saints.

"So many people feel that the world is constantly changing all around them, and they want to find something that's so deeply rooted that it won't change on them," Fenton said. "I think that's the biggest thing that Orthodoxy brings to the American table."

Since the mid-1990s, about 850,000 Americans have been drawn to more than a dozen different divisions of Orthodoxy that have congregations in the U.S.