29 October 2006

Statement of Resignation

Today I resigned as the Pastor of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit. What follows is the "Statement of Resignation" that I read to the members who attended the semi-annual meeting of the Voters of Zion Church. The Reverend David Stechholz, President & Bishop of the English District, presided at the meeting as well as the Holy Mass that preceded the meeting.

When I became Pastor of Zion Church more than 11 years ago, my intention was to remain at Zion until death or retirement. That is still my heartfelt and sincere desire. However, with much grief and heartache, I have concluded that I must tender my resignation as the Fifth Pastor of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.

I tender my resignation because I no longer confess the teachings of the Lutheran Church as these are understood by those who have pledged themselves to the Book of Concord. Zion wants to be a Lutheran congregation. The members of Zion rightly expect their Pastor to be Lutheran—a man who holds unreservedly to the Book of Concord as a true and correct interpretation and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I can no longer do so.

When a man pledges himself to a confession, he doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts he’ll abide by and which parts he’ll ignore or go against. Most of the Book of Concord is true and correct, and for that God is to be praised. However, I am convinced that the Book of Concord contains defective or deficient doctrines not in accord with the faith of the apostles. In simple terms, these deficiencies include the acceptance of an amended Nicene Creed, the notion that Jesus died to appease His Father’s wrath, a man-centered understanding of the church, the denial of prayers to the saints, and the idea that the liturgy is a man-made product. In addition, there are correct Scriptural teachings in the Book of Concord that are denied in practice by nearly all Lutherans today. These include the teachings that the saints do intercede for us, the affirmation of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the proper respect due the elements in the Lord’s Supper, and the scriptural mandate that only ordained men should celebrate Mass and give the Sacraments. Because of these deficiencies and errors, I can no longer confess and teach from the Book of Concord. Therefore, I cannot be the pastor of any Lutheran congregation.

Now I need to be clear about one thing: I am not resigning because of something someone at Zion has said or done. No one has asked for my resignation. No one has pressured or threatened me to make this decision. On the contrary, you have all been patient and kind with me—even as you saw me struggle. Therefore, I shall always genuinely appreciate and be eternally grateful for the love and the generosity that you have showered upon me and my family during my tenure as your Pastor. I am also deeply grateful for the support you have given me since I first announced my struggle more than 3 years ago. Because of this, I will always have a place in my heart for the people of Zion. This is the parish, and you are the people, I will always love.

I also sincerely appreciate the respect you have shown me as your Pastor. Your respect was evident when I first visited Zion, and that was one of the key things that drew me to you. I also respect you, and so I respect your desire to remain Lutheran. Yet for that reason, I must depart. As I do so, I heartily apologize to any I have hurt, offended, or caused to stumble in the faith during my 11 year tenure as the Pastor of Zion. By your prayers and the mercy of God, may I be forgiven.

As many of you know, the catalyst for this decision was the heart-rending realization that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is an heterodox communion fellowship, and that it has no desire to be otherwise. The Scriptures clearly prohibit Christians from being in communion with those who deliberately, persistently and willfully deny and depart from the apostolic tradition enshrined in the Scriptures. The fact that many of you, over the years, have come to Zion seeking shelter from the false worship and false teachings in LCMS churches is evidence enough that we live in a false communion. And the fact that what is taught and practiced now in LCMS churches would be unrecognizable and, in fact, abhorred by those who composed the Book of Concord, and by the founders of this parish, is also evidence enough.

Please know, however, that the troubles in the LCMS are not the reason for my resignation. If I was leaving because the Missouri Synod is in trouble, I would be leaving for all the wrong reasons; I would be running when I should be protecting you; and I would be showing you great disrespect.

I tender my resignation because, over time, I have come to see and believe that the faith believed, taught, confessed and lived in the Orthodox Church is the faith of the apostles. Therefore, I sincerely believe that the Orthodox Church is the true visible Church of Christ on earth. For this reason, my family and I will seek to be received into communion in the Orthodox Church.

Your new bishop recently asked me what core issue motivated me to embrace the Orthodox Faith. It is this: The Liturgy never changes. I don’t mean that chants or prayers or feasts are not added or subtracted gradually over time. What I mean is that no priest or bishop or congregation can decide to cut the Eucharistic Prayer or go with a new style of worship or change things to suit his convictions or the times. Why? Because the liturgy is not something smart men have created and so can modify. The liturgy is from the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Scriptures are from the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the Holy Spirit rightly instructs us in Holy Scripture and His presence transforms us and the gifts set forth in the Holy Eucharist. So the liturgy is the way the Faith is given, confessed, prayed and proclaimed. As the liturgy goes, so goes the Faith together with your certainty and surety.

Bad bishops and aberrant priests have and will always surface in the true Church. From time to time, they introduce novel and heretical teachings. But if the liturgy doesn’t change, then their faith-destroying words will not take hold and will eventually fade away. The bottom line, then, is that the unchanging liturgy keeps us on the straight and narrow. It keeps us both on the way to the Kingdom, and in the Way which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. And the Kingdom of heaven is the goal, and the Lord Jesus is our Life.

I sincerely believe that what I am doing is good and right not just for me and my family. I am convinced that it is good and right for each one of you. I sincerely believe that the Faith you’ve been taught here in this place for 125 years is lived and believed in its fullness in the Orthodox Church. Therefore, I deeply long for each of you to join me precisely because I have been your spiritual father. You have trusted by ministry, teaching and counsel these past 11 years, and I wish you would trust me in this as well. Some have indicated that they will do just that. I am moved by their confidence, and will do all I can not to betray their trust. But a good spiritual father should never force or manipulate any of his children to believe as he does. In addition, my own struggles have taught me to acknowledge and respect that each person must reach this decision on his own, in his own time.

Because of my deep love and respect for you, I pledge to you this day that I have not and shall not proselytize or recruit away those who desire to remain members of Zion. I will always be pleased to answer any questions you may have, and I will continue to speak the truth in love. But I will never urge you to act against your conscience because that is not our Father’s way, and that is not the way of His Church.

Already I have heard that some people are telling lies about Zion and what I am doing today. In the coming weeks and months, some here and elsewhere will say that I’ve turned against the true Faith, that I’ve betrayed my vows to the Confessions and to you, and that I have been deliberately deceitful. Some will say that the pledge I just made about not recruiting members is a lie. Some will say that some or all of my tenure at Zion has been a lie. And some will say that Zion has never been very Lutheran and needs to change how she’s worshipped and what she’s been taught during the last 67 years.

If you permit me, let me tell you that when you hear these things: do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, do not become bitter or angry, and do not fall into sin. Instead, hold fast to what is true and good and right. And above all, hold on steadfastly to the mercy of God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is the loving Father, and so He will always embrace those who come to Him.

I also urge you not to believe those who would question the Gospel and sacraments you have received from me. I have given what I have received. And despite my many failings and the failings of the Synod, the Gospel you have received here in this place is the wondrous, loving, merciful work of the Holy Spirit.

I am grateful for every blessing of the Holy Spirit that I received in the Lutheran Church—most especially for the gift of Holy Baptism, for a rigorous catechesis in many basic doctrines, for the Holy Eucharist that has nourished my faith, and for the grace to serve three parishes. I am also grateful for your prayers; for your words of admonishment, rebuke and encouragement; and for your friendship—which I do not intend to abandon. I am undeserving of every kindness that you have shown me. And although it may be more challenging for various reasons, I hope we continue to see each other in the years ahead.

Finally, although I am undeserving, I ask for your prayers—for me, for my family, for Zion, for your District President, for whoever succeeds me, and for the faithful in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Pray that our Lord have mercy. And pray that, despite our weaknesses and failings, we may together be restored to full communion with our Father through His Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

(Rev Fr) John W Fenton, M.Div., S.T.M.
The Fifth Sunday after Michaelmass
29 October 2006


Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Please keep us informed as to your progress and I hope you will perhaps after a respite, continue this or a new 'blog'.
I somehow sensed something was coming based on previous postings.
All good things in GOD's good time.

Pray for us as we for you!

Chaz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane Korzeniewski said...

You and your family are in my prayers as you navigate the pathways before you in search of Truth.

Thanks for the very kind plug you gave my parish, Assumption Grotto on our feast day pictures.

Do continue your blog, or begin a new one.

God Bless!

Strider said...

Dear John,

May God bless you in your continuing walk with the Lord in his Orthodox Church.

Do not be discouraged or hurt by the anger that your announcement will evoke in your parishioners and fellow Lutherans. They feel betrayed. You may discover that some whom you believed were friends will abandon you or even seek to injure you. At least this happened with me. Perhaps you will be more fortunate than I was. But you have done what you needed to do and God will grace you and protect you and yours.

Your brother in Christ,
Al Kimel

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

God bless you and your family, dear Father! Welcome to the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church!

DebD said...

God bless you Pastor as you come to embrace the Church.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Welcome Home.

Jon Ledetroit said...

God bless you and many thanks for all that you have done to teach local Lutherans about what it really means to be Lutheran - weekly communion, confession, the liturgy. I am sorry that you however no longer believe in the doctrines presented in the Book of Concord and that you find it deficient. I wish this weren't so and I have a strange confidence that the Holy Spirit will eventually lead you back to the church of the Augsburg Confession.
This is my hope and prayer for you, but in the mean time God bless you and your family.

Sch├╝tz said...

Its a "big thing" that you are doing, and takes a hell of a lot of courage. I know from the experience that, in fact, courage is the last thing you really feel in these circumstances. There will be rough times ahead, and I pray for you while you are going through it, although I have no doubt that you experience blessing not only when you get to the end of the journey, but even while you are still on it.

My only question is "why not Rome?" The answer to that may be obvious, but I found when I came to make the decision, I had to acknowledge that I was a Western Christian and therefore was obligated to seek communion with the one whom even the Orthodox acknowledge as the Patriarch of the Western Church (although he himself has recently dropped this title).

FatherDMJ said...

Thank you for confessing what you truly believe.

Thank you for what you have taught many pastor from your liturgical scholarship.


Anonymous said...


As a Lutheran who may be following in your footsteps, I want to thank you, and ask you to keep your blog going. God bless your journey.

In Christ,
Daniel M. Head

FrZeile said...

Dear Brother in Christ:
I had heard rumors, but still your resignation from the LCMS is a surprise and for me, a disappointment. I really prized our friendship, our common commitment to the "Faith once commended to the saints" and its historical expression in the liturgy within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. I further prized our families' association- your wife taught in, and children (at least 3 of the seven) attended our Lutheran School; our children have together glorified the Lord with their instruments on occasion.
So I am disappointed to lose your friendship insofar as we will no longer travel in the same circles. But I am also concerned for you. I know a little bit about Orthodoxy and its dynamics. It is not the ideal community we all seek. There are dissentions from doctrine among them as there are among us. And I have known of instances where what you are doing now- changing jurisdictions as it were- led not to just rumors or hard feelings, but to formal excommunication. I pray that you and your family may be spared such heartaches, and that God will use your talents (which are many) to his glory. I wish that He had continued to use them among us in the LCMS where they are so badly needed.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Richard Zeile

EricW said...

Best wishes on your decision.

You wrote: Your new bishop recently asked me what core issue motivated me to embrace the Orthodox Faith. It is this: The Liturgy never changes. I don’t mean that chants or prayers or feasts are not added or subtracted gradually over time. What I mean is that no priest or bishop or congregation can decide to cut the Eucharistic Prayer or go with a new style of worship or change things to suit his convictions or the times. Why? Because the liturgy is not something smart men have created and so can modify. The liturgy is from the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Scriptures are from the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the Holy Spirit rightly instructs us in Holy Scripture and His presence transforms us and the gifts set forth in the Holy Eucharist. So the liturgy is the way the Faith is given, confessed, prayed and proclaimed. As the liturgy goes, so goes the Faith together with your certainty and surety. Bad bishops and aberrant priests have and will always surface in the true Church. From time to time, they introduce novel and heretical teachings. But if the liturgy doesn’t change, then their faith-destroying words will not take hold and will eventually fade away. The bottom line, then, is that the unchanging liturgy keeps us on the straight and narrow. It keeps us both on the way to the Kingdom, and in the Way which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. And the Kingdom of heaven is the goal, and the Lord Jesus is our Life.

As an inquirer into Orthodoxy (and presently a catechumen) from non-denominational, non-liturgical Protestantism, I began reading Dom Gregory Dix's classic THE SHAPE OF THE LITURGY. Because his theories are no longer considered to be the current state of liturgical study, I recently began Paul Bradshaw's books on the history of the liturgy and the Eucharist, and have also read Hugh Wybrew's study of the Orthodox Liturgy (as well as Nicholas Cabasilas on the Divine Liturgy).

What I find from my reading is that the Liturgy has indeed changed, finally reaching its present state (at least the DL of John Chrysostom) about 1400 A.D. In the earliest days of the church, the liturgies varied geographically, both in content and in the order of the activities.

Also, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, former dean and professor of Liturgical Theology a St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary (OCA), in his book on THE EUCHARIST discusses the many historical changes in the Liturgy, and describes how some of them have obscured, changed, and even reversed the meanings that certain actions and prayers used to have and were meant to have. He especially notes that many of the functions now given to the priest, as well as the architecture and activities that separate the laypeople from the clergy, were not originally that way, and that the effect of these changes has been to create a wrong distinction and separation of the people from the clergy during the Liturgy and the Eucharist which negatively impacts and affects the faith and understanding and participation of the people.

Thus, I am a bit puzzled by some of your statements re: the Liturgy never changing and it always being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for it seems that some of the changes were indeed made for strictly pragmatic or practical reasons, and, if Schmemann and Dix are correct in their observations, some of these changes were not for the better.

Grace and Peace.

Chris Jones said...

Dear Father Fenton,

I am truly sorry to see you go. I understand, but I am still sad. We are the poorer without you.

Count me among those who hope that you continue the weblog.

Chris Jones said...


I don't think Fr Fenton's statement is, or even appears to be, proselytizing.

He owes the souls in his cure an explanation why he is resigning. Since the reason for his resignation is theological in nature, his explanation will necessarily be theological.

He states his disagreement with the Book of Concord as concisely as possible, not with the intent to persuade others but only with the intent to explain why he must resign. If he said anything less, it would no longer be clear why he must resign. If he said anything more, he might be open to the charge of proselytizing.

As it is, he is not.

david+ said...

Dear John (and soon to be again, truly, Father John!),

The Pontificator is (almost ;-) ) always right! In this case very much so. Please be assured of our prayers and continued concern for your well-being.

Those "company men" who cast aspersions on your direction or motives are mired in the problem and can't see. Your own words apply in this situation: don't be afraid.

Please leave this post up. In fact, may I have your permission to share it with certain of my folk?

Every blessing on you and yours,

"the eco'palian"

PatGoltz said...

Dear Sir, I did not know you, and this blog is my first awareness of your existence and your position. I would like to raise some issues no one has raised at this point. First of all, I would have to take issue with your statement that the saints intercede for us in heaven. This contradicts the nature of heaven, which means perfect joy. No saint could observe the suffering here and intercede for us without his joy being disrupted. God feels anguish at the state of mankind and the sins of the individual sinner, his rebellion, and his destiny if unsaved. If a saint were to observe the suffering and rebelliousness of many people, then if the saint had any love at all, he would have to feel anguish as well, and he would not feel the perfect joy of heaven. I think you will find that because the saints live outside of time, with God, that while in heaven, they are already aware of the outcome of human history, are aware of the perfect justice of God, and because the saga is not ongoing for them, but complete, there is no intercession possible. Furthermore, the Bible expressly prohibits trying to contact the dead, and prayers to the saints would be in direct disobedience to this clear instruction. Our prayers are to be directed to God alone, and if the saints did know about events here in real time, they would be very distressed that we were praying to them instead of God, for like the righteous angels, they would want to direct our attention to God alone. As for the respect shown the Eucharist, you don't spell that out, but I see no lack of respect of the Eucharist orthodox Lutheran congregations. But the Eucharist is not the physical body and blood of Christ (which could be easily demonstrated by chemical experiments, and which IS demonstrated by the recipient, who tastes bread and wine), and it is critical to be aware that the Mass is sacrificing Christ anew, something which Scripture expressly prohibits. Furthermore, to adore the Eucharist is idolatry. I don't know about the Orthodox church, but Rome does adore the Eucharist, and the Orthodox are currently in fellowship with Rome. Lutherans teach that we receive the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine. Given what we observe, this is among the best possible explanations. As for the liturgy, God did give the precursor of our Christian liturgy to the Jews, and in this you are correct. However, what we celebrate today through the liturgy is not the same as what God gave the Jews, so it HAS changed. And it changed under the guidance of the Apostles in the first instance. It is not the liturgy that keeps us in the faith; it is the Holy Spirit working directly in hearts. The liturgy encourages faithfulness, but it is not the Holy Spirit. As for the Nicene Creed being amended, I am unaware of any such, but know that it expresses the faith as I believe it. Now if Jesus did not die to appease the Father's wrath, for what reason did He die? I think this is one of several reasons, but it is real. Jesus explicitly said, "It is finished!" What did He mean by that? He meant that our salvation was complete. Unfortunately, the Catholic denominations teach that we must contribute to our salvation in some way. This means that we are calling Jesus a liar, because our salvation is therefore NOT complete. The scriptures also clearly tell us that Mary did have other children. Even in the Vulgate, the four brothers are named and called "frateres" and sisters are also mentioned. The argument that these words meant something else, when the brothers are named, is simply scripture twisting. Hence, Mary could not have been a perpetual virgin. The notion that she was is based on the pagan idea that sexual activity within marriage is something other than holy, but Scripture tells us that the marital bed is holy. And remember that the Apostle James was identified as Jesus' brother as well. I have written more extensively on this on my own web site. You can see the article here: http://www.seghea.com/pat/bible/notcath.html . I commend your honesty in leaving your congregation under the circumstances, but I urge you to continue to study, and not to accept the distortions in another denomination. No denomination is perfect, including the Orthodox. We see through a glass darkly. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten you, and that you will once more come to appreciate the phenomenal gift that it pleased God to give us through Martin Luther, who deeply studied and understood Scripture, and who passed that legacy to us.

Michael said...

Father Fenton,
God bless you on your journey. Do carry on with sharing your reflections.
Best regards,
Michaelk Borussia

Fr John W Fenton said...

Just a few quick comments:

To All:

Thanks for the kindly and gracious tone. And for those who expressed wishes, gratitude and prayers--I am undeserving but most appreciative.


My statement was written for parishioners and spoken within a context they understand. Hence, when I said, "The Liturgy never changes," they knew that I did not eschew years of liturgical scholarship. Rather, they heard the key phrase: "What I mean is that no priest or bishop or congregation can decide to cut the Eucharistic Prayer or go with a new style of worship or change things to suit his convictions or the times."

To David Schuetz (sorry, don't know how to make an umlaut):

Why not Rome? I hope I answered this on your blog.

To patgoltz:

The Orthodox are not currently in fellowship with Rome. Also, I am confident that Luther would disagree with much of what you wrote.

To Al Kimel:

The over-riding mood at Zion yesterday was saddness. Not a few tears were shed--both by me and them.

Finally, to Chris Jones:

You correctly interpreted my intent and the thin line I tried to walk.

Benedictus said...

Dear Father,

As a subdeacon in a western rite parish in the Antiochian Archdiocese (St. Michael, Whittier, CA), I wish you every blessing as you enter the Holy Orthodox Church.

As a former Baptist, I was introduced to the richness of liturgical piety and worship when I attended a Lutheran school (Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, South Gate, CA). I was never quite the same after that. Anglicanism was the next stop (in college), and later Orthodoxy. In a big way, Lutheranism got me started on this journey that led, by God's grace, to this great and pleantuous land.

Let me rejoice with you, and encourage you to keep your gaze "ad Dominum".

Pax, frater!

Thomas Llizo

Michael from Texas said...

Welcome home! As Antiochian Primate Metropolitan Philip put it:

"Welcome home to the faith of the Peter and Paul."

I look forward to counting you as one of my brothers in the Holy Orthodox Church.

In Christ,

Reader Michael S.
Porter, TX

Visibilium said...

Many years!

Brian Fink said...

Dear Fr. Fenton,

Welcome home. As a former LCMS elder and now a Greek Orthodox seminarian, I know the battle you have been waging in your heart. I will pray for you as you enter the Orthodox church and your congregation as their struggles continue.

Agios O Theos, Agios Ischyros, Agios Athanatos, elesion emas,

Brian Fink

Mother said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fr John W Fenton said...

Two things concerning the timing:

1. The timing of the announcement was based upon the District President's schedule. He wanted to be in attendance--a more than reasonable request.

2. Zion rarely celebrates "Reformation Day Sunday." Since Mass is celebrated daily--or at least 4 times each week--Reformation Day, together with the other 100+ feasts on Zion's calendar, are celebrated on their actual days. Therefore, this past Sunday was not "Reformation Day" but "The Fifth Sunday after Michaelmass."

Libertas said...

Welcome Home!

I too was LCMS and Ioved it. It broke my heart to see it falling into the mess it is today. Nevertheless, even if it had remained true to the Lutheran Confessions, it still would not be the True Visible Church of the Apostles. That does not mean that the Orthodox Church is perfect, and those of us who are Orthodox certainly know it, but Orthodoxy is the fullness of the Faith. I have never regretted my decision to become Orthodox.

God's blessings on you and your family.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear Fr. Fenton,

Anyone has to admire a man who has the courage to follow his conscience, especially when to do so is costly. That is exactly what Martin Luther did. I am in awe of you, period. You and your family have been in my prayers and now will be more especially.

One of the things about going through a situation such as this is, you find out some people you thought were your friends aren't, and some you didn't know cared a fig about you turn out to be your bulwark.

I'd be so honored if by my prayers I could turn out to be among the latter.

Please pray for me, too, as we all give glory to God in all things.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Craig Donofrio said...


Well, I am a little sad, but honestly, for years, I thought that you were not a good fit for the LC-MS in its current incarnation - then again, I am not either, but for other reasons - (mostly dealing with SPs, DPs, guns, midgets and other amusements, but I digress).

I thought that you would have gone the way of Rome, so I am a bit surprised. I know that these decisions are hard. When I first became a Lutheran, my family insisted that I joined a cult too.

I just want to say that I hope you enjoy your little trip out East and when you discover that no matter how truly jacked up the LC-MS is (and OH YES WE ARE), it is still the best game in town. I for one will be happy to welcome you back with open arms and rejoice in the ridiculous fellowship of a ridiculous church, but even more, the ridiculously good news of Justification by grace through faith ALONE apart from theosis for the sake of Christ and His life, death and resurrection.

I know you have no intentions of coming back, so my brother, rush head long into that abyss and when you wake up next to a pig, just remember this - the pigs in the LC-MS are cleaner - myself included for we are truly pieces of dung covered by snow over on this side of the fence. Thank God for sending the snow!

When you come back, we will kill the fatted DP and rejoice.

Enjoy your self imposed exile, we will miss you. Check in with us every now and again, we will leave a light on for you.

In the completely sufficient imputation of righteousness that is extended from the Cross of Christ

The Ranting Reverend

Lou Pizzuti said...

My Brother,
I applaud your honesty and courage. Our Lord led me on a similar path some years ago.

As for those who would criticize, I would only urge them to try to understand rather than argue from a position of ignorance.

123 said...

It takes as much courage to leave based on conscience as it does to decide not to take that step at the last minute out of care to be completely sure of that step as it does to "screw your courage to the sticking place" and suffer in the Church one believes is fallen, but correct. My prayers are with you (Fr.) John, as they are with those ministers who fall into the other two categories (in both the LCMS and Orthodoxy). In this day of mass apostasy and coldness of heart and faith, conscientious and humble actions based on loving faith are welcome and necessary.

Barnabas Powell said...

Dear Fr. John,

As a former Pentecostal pastor, I remember with tears the day I read a similar letter to my congregation. I was blessed to have 20+ families join me in the journey, but still I suffered the loss of close friends who simply could not conceive of why anyone would choose to leave our particular tribe.

After entering the Orthodox Church, I found Her to be filled with sinners! Thank God I was finally among my own kind!

The beauty of worship, the "sublime theology" of the Undivided Church, the richness of wisdom, and the ever satisfying Eucharist, are all rewards enough to pay back a hundred fold the pain of leaving.

As I'm sure you already appreciate, the decision is just another step along this life-long journey.

May God, the Life-giving Trinity, bless you and your family as you journey with us toward theosis.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Welcome home and many years to you and yours!


Anaxagoras said...

As a former Baptist and now an Orthodox layman, I found your resignation to be very honest and to describe many of my own feelings.

Yes, the Orthodox Catholic Church is full of sinners, immoral persons, and scummy characters. I'm one of them. We also have a great number of administrative issues that often take a long time to work out due to the lack of a top-down authoritarian figure that keeps us in line.

But you know what? It is still the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. You can't beat that. While I was a Protestant (but after I became convinced of Orthodox claims), I was faced with a terribly sad situation. I knew that no matter how joyful, peaceful, and godly my experience in Protestantism was, I was outside of the Church. My peaceful state was a matter of chance that could change like the wind. This peaceful state existed *in spite of* my membership in a heterodox body, not *because* of it. It was a matter of authority really.

Now, I know that no matter who does something stupid in the Church, at least I am in the Church, in communion with all the saints and angels.

That is peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Many years to you, Father.

William Weedon said...

My dearest John,

At the risk of being totally trite, but with tears:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sunshine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

You, Julie, and the kids remain in my heart and in my prayers.

Photini said...

Welcome home!
I traveled a rather circuitous route over 50 years - Lutheran, Mo-Synod Lutheran, Episcopalian, before I floated aimlessly like flotsam for over 5 years. I have long said that I didn't leave Protestantism - it left me.
Then, by God's grace, 6 years ago He placed me in a city in Germany for 2 years where, instead of rediscovering Luther, I was led to Orthodoxy. As I studied, I realized the questions I had were answered there, the conflicts I had with various denominations were all resolved in the Church.
My family is suspicious of my conversion. And yet, I can't help but wonder if my mother (and so many of our friends at the LCMS where I grew up) were still alive what she'd/they'd think of your letter. I like to think that they'd have applauded and gone, too. While they were not Orthodox when they died, I suspect they are all Orthodox now.
It's not an easy road you're taking - but it is a joyful one. After 4 years, I still am amazed that I have found such peace in the midst of turmoil. I smile when I think of how good God has been to me to show me where I really belong.
You are doing what is right in holding fast to the teachings of the Apostles. 2 Tim 1:13,14 - And how amazing that God has entrusted us with something so valuable!
God grant you many years!!!!

Fr. Alban Waggener said...

Father John,
I likewise welcome you, and pray God's blessing upon you and your family...it will be a challenging road ahead, but full of true joy which will ever increase. If there is anything I can do in any way, just give a holler. You are in our daily intercessions here at Holy Trinity.
Father Alban Waggener
Holy Trinity
Lynchburg, VA

Fr. Matthew said...

Fr. Fenton -- Likewise, I welcome you to the Orthodox Church, understanding that this has been a difficult decision and will be a difficult transition for you and the people of Zion, Detroit.

I am troubled by the lack of sensitivity in some commenters on this post (either Orthodox who are nothing short of gleeful over your decision or detractors--some who go as far as to equate Orthodox with swine--who are condemnatory of your decision).

Where is Christian charity in all of this?

In Christ,
Father Matthew
St. Columba's Antiochian Orthodox Church
Lafayette, CO

Unknown said...

Thank you for your honesty and integrity. It is a brave thing to not only be open with your congregation, but with all of us out here in the blog-o-sphere.

While I do not agree with your conclusion, I understand many of your critiques of our Lutheran tradition. The Lutheran church will be the poorer for not having your voice in it, speaking on behalf of the great tradition of the church.

May God bless you and your family as you follow God's call.

Vitaly said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the following posting:

"In this day of mass apostasy and coldness of heart and faith, conscientious and humble actions based on loving faith are welcome and necessary."

I am blessed to know Fr. John personally. By God's grace, I spent several sessions with him in one classroom during three plus years. If some of us just say "brother", "friend" - he mean it and he DOES it. His decision is a courageous act of Faith, honesty, integrity. It is an act of VICTORY already accomplished and fulfilled - regardless of future consequences, regardless of any amount of applauses or spits he might receive. In the hypocritical and corrupted world we all live in, his decision certainly is that of ECCE HOMO. This is THE man! Though the cost is high, so the reward.

Fr. John, so many times your helpful hand was extended to me. I will be honored if I could be of any help to you at any time of your life.

With admiration and respect,

VD :-)))

Vitaly said...


iammridiot said...

Hey, this is really going too far. You claim in your letter that Lutherans "willfully" abandon the apostolic tradition. Now how many Lutherans have you queried about this? You are putting words into their mouths. If you said: "do you wish to abandon the apostolic tradition?" then they would not say "yes", would they? But you paint a picture as if they would, with your accusation.

Stop spurning people for being weak. You're obviously looking for a deeper commitment. Everybody that goes to Eastern Orthodoxy does. That desideratum of commitment makes doctrinal issues more flexible, in that they are subsumed under the grandeur of an ancient tradition. Don't forget that it is (was) your duty as a Lutheran pastor to preach this grand truth about Jesus Christ to inspire that commitment in your parishioners. Why raise false accusation, for the most insidious of all was that you claim we willfully abandon the teaching of the apostles?

I just ask that you think about whether you really think Lutherans "willfully" abandon the apostolic tradition, or whether that was really a false assertion. I agree that there are problems in the Missouri synod, but I hope that will not lead to misunderstandings here or in the future.

318@Nicea said...

I agree with you. I struggle as a Lutheran who loves and desires the ancient Church. Sometimes, it seems that, although not the intention of the original Lutherans, that the Lutheran Confessions become Donatist, instead of catholic. God bless.


Reader Patrick (Brian) said...

Dear Fr. Fenton,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

I was happy and sad to hear about your decision. Happy, because you have come home. Sad, for I can imagine the pain involved for you, your family, and your parish. May God give you strength at this time.

Perhaps you remember me. I sat with you at mealtime a few times at the AHOS last year. I was the former LC-MS who left after our Pastor decided to have the "Lord's Heir Force Day" and dressed up as an Army Officer and started the Liturgy by shouting: "Sound off, one...two...!"

Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos may God grant you salvation.

fortunatus said...

May He direct your paths...
Welcome to Orthodoxy, even though it seems like you may have already been here for awhile.

Please pray for me.
A Coptic Orthodox in Canada

Evgeny Fedorischenko said...

Dear Fr. Fenton,

We (my wife I) heartily congratulate you on your decision to become a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You act fairly not only towards your conscience but also towards all your parishioners. Your courage is really worthy of high respect. My wife and I are representatives of younger generation of Russia. During 70 years, our parents and grandparents had been forced to think that God does not exist. Even today our Orthodoxy path is not easy. We are deeply convinced that truth is not always simple and easy. Unlike other confessions, Orthodoxy does not adapt Christianity to modern ideology and does not turn the Holy Message into the fashionable Gospel of achieving success in personal or professional life but it offers us to rise spiritually up to Christian ideals. Orthodoxy has many things, which are hard to understand for modern people – many days of strict fasting, a regular fast of two days a week, the two to three-hour service every Sunday during which we stand upright etc. Many people cannot accept the unchangeable position of the Orthodox Church toward homosexuality, the inadmissibility of women to priesthood and many other things. However, in fact the Church is summoned to be “the salt of the Earth” and not to accept any substitute for the truth in the body of Christ.
We are glad to be the parishioners of the orthodox community and to belong to the eternal and unchangeable things given us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nikolai A. Berdyaev was right when he said: “For the longest time Orthodoxy did not have such world-wide significance as did Catholicism and Protestantism. It remained apart form passionate religious battles for hundreds of years, for centuries it lived under the protection of large empires (Byzantium and Russia) and preserved its eternal truth from the destructive processes of world history. It is characteristic for Orthodoxy's religious nature that it was not sufficiently actualized nor exposed externally, it was not militant, and precisely because of this the heavenly truth of Christian revelation was not distorted so much. Orthodoxy is first of all, an orthodoxy of life and not an orthodoxy of indoctrination. For it, heretics are not so much those who confess a false doctrine but those who have a false spiritual life and go along a false spiritual path. Orthodoxy is before all else, not a doctrine, not an external organization, not an external norm of behavior but a spiritual life, a spiritual experience and a spiritual path. Orthodoxy is less the normative form of Christianity (in the sense of a normative-rational logic and moral law) but is rather its more spiritual form. And this spirituality and hiddenness of Orthodoxy were not infrequently the sources of its external weakness. Rationalism, legalism and all normatism is alien to Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church is not defined in rational concepts, it is conceptualized only for those living within it, who are united to its spiritual experience.. The mystical types of Christianity are not subject to any kind of intellectual definitions, they do not have any juridical signs nor do they have rational signs. Orthodoxy turns to the mystery of the RESURRECTION as the summit and the final aim of Christianity Thus the central feast in the life of the Orthodox Church is the feast of Pascha, Christ's Glorious Resurrection. The way of the Cross is man's path but it leads man, along with the rest of the world, towards the Resurrection. Orthodoxy, being a more traditional, a more conservative form of Christianity, while preserving the ancient truths, allowed for the possibility of a greater religious innovation, not innovations of human thought which is so prominent in the West, but innovations of the religious transfiguration of life”.
We understand how difficult it will be for you to profess Orthodoxy in your country because even here in Russia, in a country which has thousand-year-old Orthodox tradition it is not easy either. It is not easy but nevertheless it’s a big joy! God bless you and your family on your journey.

Evgeny and Elena.

EstherRobinson said...

I've just left the Presbyterian Church (USA) to become Orthodox. You're an inspiration to me because I, too, had to leave a church I loved. I struggled, but finally decided that Orthodoxy is the truest to the original faith and a hospital for sinners--and that's what I wanted. Whenever I miss the old church, I remember that you're going through the same thing--and that it doesn't mean I should go back.