George Maximov interviews people who converted to Orthodoxy from various non-Orthodox faiths. The guest of today’s program, Andrei Solodkov, sectologist and Orthodox missionary, joined Adventists in his youth, graduated from their seminary and became a pastor. In this interview, he will tell us how he came to understand where the Truth was. We will also discuss such topics as the meaning of the Sabbath day and Resurrection, Apostolic Tradition and human tradition, the Church and its foundation, our mission with regard to Protestants and the ways to fulfil this mission.
Priest George Maximov: Hello! You are watching My Path To God. Today our guest is Andrei Ivanovich Solodkov, sectologist and missionary. I’ll tell his secret right away: In the past Andrei Ivanovich was a member and even a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Please tell us how did your spiritual quest begin and what lead to you Adventists?
The choice many people made was not between the Church and a sect, but between atheism and at least some information about God that was offered to them
Andrei Solodkov: It probably happened because I was brought up in an atheist family. I was baptized as Orthodox Christian, but it was only done for the sake of tradition. I remember, my grandmother would put the baptismal cross on me and my mother would remove it sneakily because she was afraid that it could come out while I was playing and somebody would see it. As everybody at that time, I was a member of the Young [Communist] Pioneer organization and later joined the Komsomol. However, I never was an activist. Later, in the early 1990’s, I was one of the many people in our country who did not really understand what Church was and who Christians were. Anybody who called himself a Christian was perceived as a member of the Church, and specifically the Orthodox Church. At that time, the choice people made was not between the Church and a sect, but between atheism and any information about God that was offered to them. Once some people approached me in the street and said, “We would like to invite you to study the Holy Scripture.” I asked them who they were. They answered that they were Christians. I thought that since they were Christians they must be Orthodox. So, I went there. They looked like nice people. I studied the Scripture with them. Then they told me that they had their own educational establishment, Zaokskaya Seminary. It was 1992. I went there and saw that you could really study there. I got admitted to the Pastor Faculty of Zaokskaya Seminary and studied there for four years. On the fourth year, I started thinking, “Is everything really this way?” This happened because I got acquainted with very interesting people. For example, Oleg Mikhailovich Senin, teacher and holder of the Master’s degree, who by the way quit Adventism with us. He is a very broadminded person, a poet and a writer. He opened our eyes and made us see many things. Can you imagine that he made such presentations as, for example, Sergius of Radonezh and His Ascetic Labors, right inside this seminary? He also made presentations about Seraphim of Sarov. He was persecuted for this, of course, but many people still liked him. Many people believed that “Adventism had to be made more down-to-earth”. That is, in Russia it has to be made more “down-to-earth”, so it would not look so American.
The first thing that caught my eye was how Americanized the Adventists were
Father George: I understand that very well, because I once visited Adventists in Montenegro. I was asked to participate in a small dispute, so I came and for starters just looked at everything that they had there. The first thing that caught my eye was how Americanized everything was. The room was set up and furnished in an American way, everybody was dressed in American way and even the preacher spoke with American intonations. Maybe in some other country it wouldn’t be so conspicuous, but in such an ancient and Orthodox country as Montenegro seeing Serbs pretending to be Americans was very strange and even preposterous.
Andrei Solodkov: Yes, indeed. I remember what happened when pastor Mark Finley came to our country. I was a second year student then, and they brought us all here to Moscow to provide support during his performance. He was renting a stadium at that time. Even then, there were things that bothered me. I thought, “There’s a church nearby. I can’t believe that these people never heard anything about the Holy Scripture and never read it!” There is a myth among sectarians that Orthodox Christians do not read and do not know the Holy Scripture, sinking into Paganism instead. This myth is firmly lodged in the minds and hearts of people in various Neo-Protestant movements. So, when Mark Finley said, “We brought the Holy Scripture to this land!” I thought, “I always thought that Cyril and Methodius did that a thousand years ago.” This Protestant presumptuousness took me aback even then. I remember this very well, even though it happened 20 years ago. I didn’t choose between the Church and Adventism, but as a person looking for God, I simply followed those who spoke of Him.
Father George: During the years of your studies, you received the Adventist baptism and became a full-fledged member of their organization. It is well-known that observance of is Adventists’ trademark. They often describe this as something that sets them apart from other Christians: “We observe the Sabbath day, while the others don’t.” Did this bother you when you decided to convert from Adventism to Orthodoxy? If yes, how did you overcome this obstacle?
Note that the apostle refers to “rest” rather than “Sabbath”. What does it mean?
Andrei Solodkov: It is a very important question indeed. The essential Adventist values are observing the Sabbath day, abstaining from eating pork and payment of tithes. There are other differences, but you were correct to say that observing the Sabbath is the most important issue. Here we must differentiate between the things that were before and after the Resurrection of Christ. Unfortunately, many Neo-Protestants do not distinguish between these two periods. As a result, they confuse things that are very different from each other. There is “the cup of the Lord” and “the cup of devils” (See 1 Cor. 10:21). There are idolatrous images and there are holy images. There are human traditions and Apostolic Tradition. There is a Sabbath day as a monument to the creation of this world in the Old Testament and there is the Resurrection of Christ as in, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). That is why when we read, for example in Hebrews, that There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God, it is important to note that it refers to “rest” rather than “Sabbath”. What does it mean? This is what Christ said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28). That is, it is in Christ that we find the true rest for our souls. It is not simply emphasizing the importance of a single day.
When I was an Adventist, I saw how Adventists observe the Sabbath day. Sometimes it almost bordered on the absurd, and, as a pastor, I even had to interfere.
Father George: How do they remember it?
Andrei Solodkov: After the morning service, which includes singing, reading of the Scripture and studying the lesson of the Sabbath, the Adventists would go home, gorge themselves and go to bed. They would even jokingly say, “We need to fall asleep faster and sleep till sunset to be in rest and do nothing.” So, it was this absurd: they would sleep to avoid doing anything. In the Acts, there is a reference to, The first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread. (Acts 20:7). There is no need to explain to Adventists what “the first day of the week” is. They know very well that it refers to Sunday. In Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, it is also said that they made donations to missions on the first day of the week (See 1 Cor. 16:2), that is, on the day of the gathering. This was the day that they collected donations for the apostles so they could fulfill Christ’s commandment Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (Matt. 28:19).
Father George: Yes, when I was invited to talk to an Adventist pastor from Belgrade who visited Montenegro, we discussed this very issue. I saw that all their arguments are directed against the [Roman] Catholic teaching that the Sabbath day is abandoned and Sunday is used to replace it. They say, “Well, where was that written? Nowhere. So, this is violation of God’s commandment.” I told them that in Orthodoxy Sabbath was not abandoned and had its own special meaning. According to the religious calendar, Saturday is the end of the week as it was in ancient times and Sunday is the first day of the week. Saturday is a special day of worshiping, there is no strict lent on that day and a Liturgy is performed. In all Orthodox countries, Saturday is a holiday. As you can see, Sabbath is remembered in a certain way. At the same time, I argued, where does it say that God cannot institute something of a greater importance? What is the most important event in the world history? The Resurrection of Christ, of course! Similarly, just as the rising sun does not eliminate the stars, but makes them invisible in its light, the Resurrection of Christ did not erase previous events of the human history from the Old Testament, but made them less significant. For my Adventist opponents it was a totally new approach that they were not ready for.
Protestants coming to Russia fight against the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church
Andrei Solodkov: I agree with you here, Father George. Protestants and Neo-Protestants coming to Russia are often fighting against the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. That is why I always advise them to compare the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church and see if our Church is indeed teaching the things that they are opposed to. There is a significant difference in understanding the Eucharist and the matter of abandoning the Sabbath day. The Orthodox Church never abandoned the Sabbath day. Any Adventists who would join the Russian Orthodox Church can observe the Sabbath day without any problems. Nobody would punish or judge them for that. If you don’t want to work on Saturday, then don’t. Remember the Sabbath day. But I repeat, there is the Sabbath of the Old Testament, the monument to creation of the world, and there is the day to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
Interestingly, in addition to the Sabbath day Adventists celebrate other holidays too. Christmas and the New Year, for example. When I was a first year student in Zaokskaya Seminary – I was 23 then—I would put on the costume of Santa Claus and visit children to make them happy. Later when I was no longer an Adventist, I reconsidered all that and asked, “Why would they celebrate Christmas, but not the Resurrection of Christ? Easter is somehow neglected. Isn’t it strange?” They would tell me, “Well… it is the day that Christ was born.” I would respond, “Then it looks like the Resurrection of Christ is less important than His Birth. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
Father George: The Scripture clearly says, And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain. (1 Cor. 15:17). It is the Resurrection of Christ, rather than His Birth, that is the foundation of all Christian faith. The Birth of Christ is also a great event of the human history, but it is not as great as His Resurrection. Because His mission on Earth, the reason for His coming to us, was fulfilled in His Resurrection.
Andrei Solodkov: That is why Apostle Paul did not say that there remains a Sabbath day to the people of God, but he used the word “rest” instead. Christ leads us to new rest through His bright Resurrection.
Father George: In fact, Apostle Paul lists the things that Christians stopped observing according to Gods will. He says, Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days (Col. 2:16). When I quoted this to my Adventist opponents, they said, “This refers to the Great Sabbath (Shabbat ha-Gadol) that occurs every seven years, this was what was abandoned, while the weekly Sabbath days were not.” But the apostle never said that. He simply referred to “the sabbath days” and not to the Great Sabbath.
Coming back to your story, I’d like to ask you, “How did you come to realize that the truth is in Orthodoxy and that you have to leave the past behind and move toward the Ancient Apostolic Church?
Andrei Solodkov: It was not me coming to Orthodoxy—it was God leading me. The fact that I’ve been in the Orthodox Church for 20 years now is simply God’s grace toward me. I was surrounded by good people: I already mentioned Oleg Mikhailovich, later I also met Father Oleg Stenyayev. Maybe one of the steps toward Orthodoxy that I made was influenced by the fact that I saw real and sincere kindness. Not just an American smile, but a true sincerity. I was accepted the way I was. I didn’t have to prove that I’m better than I actually am, didn’t have to jump out of my skin as they’re doing in Adventism nowadays. This good disposition meant that there were no accusations or reproaches. Our Lord Jesus Christ had the same attitude when he spoke to the Samaritan.
I saw enormous distortions of truth in the Adventist translation of the Holy Scripture! Mostly with regard to the Tradition
Another step was influenced by the voice of God. God called me and I responded. The third step was influenced by my studying the belief system to understand what was true and what was not. For example, the matter of Tradition. Adventists did their own translation of the Holy Scripture. I even feel embarrassed for them about that. I always considered them fairly honest and intelligent people. But I saw enormous distortions of truth in this translation! Let’s take Tradition, for example. In all passages that refer to the Apostolic Tradition, they removed the word and totally distorted the text. In the second letter to the Thessalonians (2:15) and the first letter to Corinthians (11:2), they translated the Greek word παράδοσις as “what you heard” or “the truth you heard from us”. In the passages where the word παράδοσις is used in a negative context, e.g. Mark 7:8, Matthew 15:3, they left the word “tradition” in the translation.
Father George: We should clarify that the Greek word παράδοσις is translated as “tradition”. In the New Testament, there are passages where the tradition of men is referenced negatively and at the same time there are passages that refer to the true Apostolic Tradition, for example when Apostle Paul praises his followers for their adherence to the Tradition. The word παράδοσις is used in both cases. Apparently, having gotten tired of Orthodox people referring to those texts that establish the importance of the Holy Tradition, our Russian Adventists decided to translate the passages where the Tradition is mentioned in a positive sense as, “the truth” or “the things you heard from us” which is an obvious distortion as παράδοσις is literally translated as “tradition”.
Andrei Solodkov: All Protestants, including Adventists, say that the Bible explains itself. But this contradicts the words of Apostle Peter who wrote, And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Pet. 3:15-16). This means that the Bible is not sufficient to explain itself as people can interpret it wrongly unto their own destruction. This is a very important issue. Choosing the faith is not a matter of choosing a convenient, comfortable and cozy place. First of all, it is a matter of salvation.
I’ll explain why I started talking about it. The thing is that when I was an Adventist, I saw that the Scripture differentiates between two traditions—the one that the apostle praises people for and the other for which he reprimands them. When I prepared my graduation thesis, I wanted to disprove the idea that Tradition is not necessary. I chose this topic on my fourth year at Zaokskaya seminary. When I learned that there were two traditions, I immediately recalled the words of our Savior, Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (Jn. 5:39). What if that Scripture is distorted and misunderstood? This will lead people astray.
This really got me. The decision to quit has not been formed yet, but I already saw many unacceptable things.
Father George: The fact that Adventists did this with translation seems to me the acknowledgement of their own inability to substantiate their teaching with the real text of the Holy Scripture. Jehovah’s Witnesses chose the same way by creating their own New World Translation where they distorted all the passages in the Bible that did not fit their doctrine. This is sad, of course. But let’s get back to your story. You were already a pastor and had a certain status in the community. How did you convert to Orthodoxy? Did you tell your parishioners that you were joining the Orthodox Church? Or did you just leave without any explanations?
Andrei Solodkov: Of course, I made the announcement. I was the pastor of Protvino. I also founded another community in Obolensk. I made a speech at the assembly. To make a long story short, I said, “Plato is dear to me, but truth is dearer still.” I tried to be fully honest and said, “I can’t stay here because I see that the Holy Scripture is understood in a wrong way. Christ is perceived in a wrong way and there are serious distortions of truth.” However, I didn’t call on to everybody to quit. At that time, I didn’t quite figure everything out. This was an intuitive move, a response to God’s calling. It is difficult to find the right words, but I saw that the place I was in wasn’t a Church. If the Holy Scripture is understood in such an ambiguous way, then, A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:8). That is why I said, “If anybody wishes to study the Holy Scripture with me, you can come with me. But I’m not forcing anybody to do so.” I said that from the podium and left. Eighteen people followed me.
Father George: Did they also convert to Orthodoxy?
Andrei Solodkov: Yes, they joined the Russian Orthodox Church.
Father George: We need to explain to our viewers that pastors who convert to Orthodoxy become laity. In this regard, did you have any doubts as to how to go on and how to find your place?
Andrei Solodkov: Indeed, when I was a pastor, I had an assistant and a car, even though I was 25-26 then (I converted to Orthodoxy when I was 27). I had a decent income, salary, tithes and a social status. I wouldn’t say that I was rich, but my financial position was stable. When I left, I lost it all. I had a wife and a child and, naturally, I had to support my family somehow. However, this did not stop me from quitting. I knew that if I’m going toward God and following the call of God, then God wouldn’t abandon me. I don’t want to seem pretentious, but this is how I live. If God is with me, who’d go against me? And God did help me when I converted to Orthodoxy.
I know that there are people among Protestants who already feel the inner attraction to the Orthodox Church, but are in doubt, thinking, “If I convert to Orthodoxy and join the True Apostolic Church, would I be able to find myself in the Church?” They should know that the Church is open to everybody. Any people who are currently Adventists, even pastors or officials, will find a place for themselves in the Church, as there is room for everybody. If they are really moved by the voice of God telling them, “This is the True Church, this is its beauty, this is Orthodoxy,” then they should follow that voice and remember the words from the Holy Scripture, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Heb. 4:7).
Father George: Did other Adventists try to make you change your mind? Did they talk to you about it?
At that time, the matter of Church was of utmost importance to me
Andrei Solodkov: Yes, of course. When a pastor quits, it is no ordinary matter. They came to visit me at home, tried to talk to me about the Holy Scripture. I was fairly straightforward then, but at the same time tried not to offend them. At that time, the matter of Church was of utmost importance to me. I knew that Christ said, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). I tried to ask them how this could come true if Adventists say that Christians have been deviating from the truth for many centuries. I referred them to the matter of succession that I understood sufficiently well after reading the Dogmatic Theology by Metropolitan Macarius. I said, “The matter of succession is very important. Where was the Church before 1844, when according to you it was formed by the Seventh-day Adventists? Of course, they tried to argue with me. But I said, “No, I see that salvation is only here. Salvation outside of the Church is not possible.” For salvation is not possible without Christ and Christ cannot be divided (See 1 Cor. 1:13). I saw that the original Church of Christ is here, in Orthodoxy, and so is its succession. Some aspects of Orthodoxy were still unclear to me, but I intuitively understood that eventually I would figure them out.
Father George: When you already were on the way to catechization, what was the most difficult thing to accept in Orthodoxy?
Andrei Solodkov: I don’t think there was anything like that. I would say that understanding came to me after I joined the Church through anointment and started partaking of the holy sacraments of Christ. My mind began to open up. It was amazing. It all happened the way it is said in the Scripture, O taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). Without joining the Church, using just your rational mind, you cannot truly understand Christ.
Father George: I would like to discuss this matter of the Church in a greater detail. Essentially, it is the most serious problem of Protestantism as they basically state that the Church disappeared. They reject the things we have in Orthodoxy, for example, veneration of the Mother of God and icons, and say that this is wrong and heretical. Well, if this is heresy and it was in the Church for a long time, this means that, according to Protestants the Church stopped being the “pillar and ground of the truth” as apostle Paul calls it (See. 1 Tim. 3:15). This would mean that God lied when He said, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20) and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” For if lies overcame the entire Church, as Adventists and other Protestants speculate, then that would mean that the gates of hell prevailed. For Satan is the father of lies. Some people say that the Church disappeared in the fourth century, but many people, including Adventists, tend to believe that the disciples of the apostles distorted everything as early as in the second century. So, from the second century up to the sixteenth, or, according to Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses speculation, to the nineteenth century, there was no Church. How could this be? There was no Church for 1500 or 1700 years? Where was the Holy Spirit that according to Christ Will guide you into all truth (Jn. 16:13)? Why would he wake up in the nineteenth century all of a sudden and guide the founders of Adventism or other Protestant and Protestant-related denominations? Why did nothing like that happen earlier? How can this be explained?
When I ask Protestants this question, they try to defend their position by using the concept of, “the invisible Church”, and say that, “there were ancient Adventists, ancient Pentecostals and ancient Jehovah’s Witnesses among the faithful of the ancient Church. And they believed the way we do.” Okay, but prove that they did exist. Where were they? They couldn’t have existed. In response you hear, “They were scattered individuals. We cannot prove it, but believe that they existed.” However, in this case, even assuming that they did exist, this cannot be called a Church, because the word “Church” (εκκλεσία) that the apostles use means “a gathering” in Greek. It cannot be used to describe a situation where one person lives in Greece, the other, say, in Asia Minor, the third one in Rome and these people don’t know each other and belong to communities that believe in wrong teachings. Obviously, this cannot be called εκκλεσία, this is not a gathering. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church (See Matt. 18:17) which implies that the Church can always be found as you can only turn to a visible rather than invisible authority for enforcement.
Andrei Solodkov: Adventists often quote, For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20). At the same time, they like to say that we need to see the things in context. However, the context starts from the fifteenth verse of Chapter 18: Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. And only after that Jesus says, For where two or three are gathered together in my name… This is about the strength of joint prayer. There isn’t a single word about this being the foundation of the Church. What is the Church based on? Apostle Paul speaks about it in his first letter to the Corinthians, For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11). That is why any claim regarding the founding of any other Church implies that Jesus Christ would come again into this world, be born, suffer on the cross, die and resurrect. O Lord, the firm foundation of those that put their trust in Thee, do Thou confirm the Church, which Thou has purchased with Thy precious blood. The precedent is like that. As you noted correctly, if the Church was invisible and according to Adventists there were only some scattered “faithful individuals”, this means that in order to follow the above-mentioned words of Christ I have to run around all churches and cry, “Hey, where are the truly faithful brothers and sisters here? I need to instruct my brother according to Christ’s commandment.” That is why Christ is obviously talking about the visible Church.
An “Invisible Church” is a very serious delusion
An “Invisible Church” is a very serious delusion shared not only by Adventists, but also by many other people in Protestantism and Neo-Protestantism. They have a wrong perception of the nature of the Church. The Church is not only εκκλεσία. The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ is the Head of the Church. That is why believing in the Head but separating oneself from the Body of Christ is a blasphemy.
Father George: I know that you dedicated many years of your life to helping people in various erroneous denominations, not only Protestants. Could you tell us more about this aspect of your work?
Andrei Solodkov: In the beginning, in the 1990’s, I was working in the A.S. Khomyakov center on Ordynka that was managed by Father Oleg Stenyayev. Now I have my own center of St. Joseph of Volotsk, where we have a rehabilitation committee working from 3 pm to 7 pm on Tuesdays.
Many Protestants that come to us believe in a myth that Orthodox people do not know the Holy Scripture. People who join a sect think that if after going to clubs and bars, drinking and smoking, they discovered the Scripture, this means that their lives have changed. Indeed, the word of God gives blessing to people. Even distorted by sectarians, it changes the lives of people. Their morality is improved. In this case, the person who helped such people who became members of a Protestant group discover the Holy Scripture becomes the absolute authority to them. That is why if talking with a regular member of a Neo-Protestant organization I see complete antagonism, I immediately stop the discussion. I ask, “May I meet your mentor or your pastor? Or the elder, if it is a Jehovah’s Witness. When I meet them, we establish a certain topic for our conversation. During my recent trip to Orenburg archdiociese, I participated in a discussion with Adventists about the immortality of soul. We met in their house of prayer. It is important for me to gather as many people as possible. The more people there are, the better. To start thinking critically, the people need to hear and see everything for themselves.
I think that every Protestant would benefit from listening to such a discussion and understanding that Orthodox people have all the answers to the questions of Protestants of various denominations.
At such a discussion, regular members of the sect would see everything and understand that their mentor who taught them and seemed to know everything doesn’t really know that much. It is important to destroy that idol in the hearts of such people.
During the 2000 years of its existence, the Church collected the answers to all such questions. I can refer to the Bible in discussions on any topic, such as the veneration of icons, Tradition, the Scripture, baptism of infants, etc. We Orthodox know very well that there are answers to all these questions.
Father George: In most cases, such people are probably brought to the center by their relatives who wish to steer them away from a sect. Do you work with them somehow?
Andrei Solodkov: I tell them right away that they should stop any disputes on religious topics at home. Because often the relatives themselves are not catechized.
I’ll tell you about one case. A woman came to us and said, “My son got involved with Krishnaites.” We asked her if she goes to church. She said, “Well… maybe on Easter or Christmas.” So we told her, “You need to be catechized and start going to church. You tell him to go to church, but don’t go there yourself. He sees that.” A year later, this woman came again to thank us. She came with her son who told us the whole story.
His mother kept on saying to him, “You should be Orthodox! Why are you involved with those Krishnaites?” He started avoiding her. His mother worked shifts, so to avoid seeing her and being drawn into a scandal, he would come home only when she was at work and almost completely moved into an ashram. In the meantime, his mother listened to our advice and started going to church on Sundays. The son told us, “I would come home and see that the house was clean. It used be a mess. When I came home on another occasion, I saw an icon and a vigil light burning. Next time I came, there was a porridge on the table and note: ‘Son, I know you don’t eat meat, so here’s some dairy food for you.’ I was surprised. I noticed that my clothes had been washed. This lasted for a year. Once when I came there, I saw the Gospel opened to a page where it said, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. My heart skipped a beat and I thought, ‘This refers to “all,” therefore it includes me.’ So I waited for my mother to come home and we both came here.” This is a true story.
Remember, your hostility toward children who got involved in a sect corners them in such a way that they may completely turn away from you
There is a certain unhealthy tendency to apply to courts “to fight the sectarians.” We need to understand that the people who got involved in a sect are our children. Many of them are baptized, they are not strangers to us. They are our laity, our people that maybe we didn’t reach. As a missionary, I failed to reach them and they got involved in a sect. That is why we shouldn’t be hostile to them. Our hostility toward children who got involved in a sect corners them in such a way that they may completely turn away from us. We need to remember how Jesus Christ Our Lord treated people of different faith. He didn’t stay away from them. There is even a parable about a good Samaritan. It is an amazing parable. That Samaritan was a sectarian. Samaritans had an alternative Pentateuch, they had a mount Gerizim where they went to pray. Jesus Christ gave us this example so that unlike the Jews we wouldn’t be so narrow-minded.
Father George: Thank you for your story, Andrei Ivanovich. I hope to God that other people in their spiritual quest would find the way to the Ancient Apostolic Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church.