Source: The Salt Lake Tribune
It shook the fundamentalist Christian world to its roots: Hank Hanegraaff, the darling of evangelicals as host of the long-running, nationally syndicated "Bible Answer Man" broadcast, had joined the Greek Orthodox Church.
Hanegraaff, for nearly 30 years president of the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical apologetics ministry, also has written 20 books opposing purported cults and heresies and non-Christian faiths. If ever evangelicals had a doctrinal superhero, Hanegraaff was he.
But on Palm Sunday, in a video released via social media, there was the 67-year-old Hanegraaff kneeling for "Holy Chrismation" — a rite of anointing with oil accompanying baptism — inside St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church of Charlotte, N.C.
Within days, Bott Radio Network, a 107-station strong, evangelical broadcasting empire, severed its longstanding relationship with him; other critics proclaimed Hanegraaff had somehow betrayed true Christianity.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he countered in a broadcast shortly after he, his wife, Kathy, and two of their 12 children became Orthodox. "Nothing has changed in my faith. ... I have fallen ever more in love with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
There are no authoritative statistics available, but anecdotally, at least, it appears Hanegraaff is hardly alone in finding a spiritual home in the world's oldest — and Orthodox believers insist the first and most faithful — Christian fellowship.
That certainly is the case for Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church in downtown Salt Lake City. The Rev. Justin Havens says the church, located in a former Jewish synagogue at 355 S. 300 East, had fewer than 100 worshippers when he became its priest nine years ago.
"We have almost tripled in size since then," Havens says. "I would say 60 percent or more of our parish is made up of converts. About half of those are former LDS [Mormons], and the rest are former Protestants and evangelicals, along with a few former Catholics and Episcopalians."
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