How are adult converts received into the Greek Orthodox Church? (question inspired by "My Big Fat Greek Wedding")

In the fictional comedy movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the lead male character, Ian Miller, resolves to “become Greek” by undergoing Baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church. The movie pokes fun at the notion that the Greek Orthodox (in America) are unprepared to receive adult converts, and Ian Miller is Baptized in a plastic kiddie pool.

But this comedy got me wondering about reality - how does the Greek Orthodox Church in America handle adult converts? Latin Catholics have the RCIA program. What do the GO (or any other Eastern Catholic Church) have?

They go through some RCIA type of training, but don’t have to be baptized, just confirmation.

Usually by confirmation (chrismation), sometimes by re-baptism due to a semi-Donatist view of Baptism in which Baptism performed by a heretic (i.e. a Catholic or Protestant) is sacramentally invalid. I think the re-baptism is much more common in the Russian church, though.

As far as catechesis, it tends to be little, in my experience. I had to read an Orthodox “catechism” (although they would never use such a legalistic word - it’s anathema to them) by Anthony Coniaris, two books by Timothy Ware, one on “The Orthodox Church” and one on hesychasm, and repudiate “filioque” and papal supremacy, and acknowledge the hypostatic union and the essence-energies distinction (the former likely only because I came to Greek Orthodoxy by way of Coptic Monophysitism). Essentially profession of faith followed by chrismation. It took me a week (two days to read the books, five days to get another appointment).

They didn’t re-baptize me, and I’m still looking for conditional baptism as I’m uncertain that I was baptized as an infant, and have no living family, witnesses, nor paperwork to tell me if I was.

I loved that movie! :smiley:

This is a complicated issue. The Russian Orthodox Church has an official policy not to baptize Roman Catholics. The Churches in the Greek tradition have no official policy, so the policy is set by the bishops (it is common for old world bishops to baptize incoming Roman Catholics). The oddball is ROCOR, which started doing some strange stuff back in the mid 1900s after their separation from Moscow. They likely follow the official policy of the Russian Orthodox Church now that they are back under Moscow.

It’s worth noting that this is not a semi-Donatist thing from the Orthodox perspective any more than the Catholic denial of Mormon baptisms is semi-Donatist. The Orthodox simply profess that outside of the true faith there are no sacraments (the Catholics draw the line at the Trinitarian faith).

Those looking to come into the Orthodox Church will basically undergo catechesis with the priest (larger parishes may actually have a formal program of catechesis, while in smaller parishes, it tends to be just with the priest). After they have been sufficiently catechized, they will be received by baptism or chrismation, whichever is appropriate.

I imagine there are parishes out there which are completely unprepared to deal with adult converts, you come across insular ethnic parishes now and then, but I would think they’d manage to do something a bit better than a kiddie-pool. Obviously that was all for comedic affect.

In the Parish I was chrismated in there was a formal set of classes on the teachings of the church, led by the priest, in a group environment, anyone could attend but those who wished to join were required to go to the classes whether they were to be baptized, or chrismated.

The Parish had a large plastic tub which it used for adult baptisms (it was filled by running a hose through the window to the tap outside the parish), but at that parish adult baptisms happened at a nice regularity. I’m not sure how my present parish does it, having never attended an adult baptism. I would assume it is similar.

Orthodox baptism is generally full immersion. You would wear something white and modest that does not become see-through when wet. Some churches may have a robe for you to use, but not always.

You would also have a white outfit ready to wear after the baptism itself for the rest of the ceremony.

Many Orthodox Churches do not require a baptism for those who received a Christian baptism from another church. Instead the person goes through the second part of the Orthodox rite called Chrismation (sometimes called “confirmation”), where the person, after baptism, is anointed with holy oil, specially prepared for this purpose.

At any rate, you really should discuss this with the priest who will be accepting you into the Orthodox Church. He will be able to tell you exactly what is expected for that particular parish, some practices do vary based on circumstances.

From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website:

The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity.

Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ.

Baptism is one’s public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection.

Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people.

From the day of their baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Spirit, through their family and the Church.

The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.

The Sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) immediately follows baptism and is never delayed until a later age.

As the ministry of Christ was enlivened by the Spirit, and the preaching of the Apostles strengthened by the Spirit, so is the life of each Orthodox Christian sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Chrismation, which is often referred to as one’s personal Pentecost, is the Sacrament which imparts the Spirit in a special way.

In the Sacrament of Chrismation, the priest anoints the various parts of the body of the newly-baptized with Holy Oil saying: “The seal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Oil, which is blessed by the bishop, is a sign of consecration and strength.

The Sacrament emphasizes the truths that not only is each person a valuable member of the Church, but also each one is blessed by the Spirit with certain gifts and talents. The anointing also reminds us that our bodies are valuable and are involved in the process of salvation.

Typical instructions for someone preparing for adult baptism can be found here;

Similar instructions from another Greek Church here;

A detailed discussion of what happens at a baptism and why can be found here:

I’ve heard from Orthodox that the Greek Orthodox Church (specifically the Greek one, not Orthodox Churches in general) is rather unwelcoming and cold.

It very much depends on the Parish, I think.

Definitely not the case with my parish. It varies from parish to parish, just as in any other church.

As a Catholic, I don’t want to presume to answer this question, with all the nuances involved in it. (If this is something you’re really curious about, I would suggest asking an Orthodox priest, or posting it on an Orthodox forum.) As far as the movie goes, I think you are right that it suggests that the GOA isn’t used to baptizing adults, but that could be taken in 2 different ways: either that they don’t get a lot of adult converts, *or *that most of their adult converts are not re-baptized (if they were previously baptized as either Catholic or Protestants).

the GOARCH church that I attended in the past had Orthodoxy 101 classes which last about 6 months or so, every other week. I was told by my priest that it doesn’t matter if you were baptised before, you will have to be baptised agan, because OC do not recognize sacraments from any other church. He is also not willing to baptise anymore unless they have been attending for at least 1-2 years. Whether Greek churches are more welcoming or not , I think varies on the parish. The one I went to was kind of lukewarm but not unfriendly or anything. By contrast, ROCOR church I went to, I was completely ignored and given cold and suspicious looks. Priest there was welcoming enough but seemed shocked that I was actually interested in converting(this was 2 years ago when I was still thinking of becoming OC). OC only baptizes by full triple immersion, not sprinkling

Are infant baptisms by immersion as well then or do they have a regular baptismal font for that? And most Orthodox are baptized as infants, no??

Baptism is always by immersion, and pretty standard baptismal fonts are used.

The majority are baptized as infants, unless they convert to the church later in life.

So they immerse the whole baby under the water? And by regular do you mean a pool? I should have specified that in a Catholic Church a "regular baptismal font is small (almost just like a fountain size and no one could be immersed in it only sprinkled on.

Yes, the baptismal font for infants is deep enough for the infant to be fully submerged.

I was baptised in ROCOR in a horse trough outdoors on halloween, and boy was it cold.

I have actually heard of adults being baptised NUDE in 50 gallon oil drums.

I have since left ROCOR.

I think it depends. Ethnic old Russian churches can be stand offish.
But ROCOR churches made up of converts are friendly. In fact the Matuska was raised church of Christ as I was. We had an instant raport. (sp)

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