I got this note from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:

I don’t have accounts with any of the services required to leave a comment, so I submit here on the recent post, “American Orthodox Church by the Numbers.” On what basis do you conclude that converts depart “when the first flush of faith fades”? Have they truly lost their Christian faith? Have you data on the denominations-of-origin of converts, the average duration of their identification with Orthodoxy, or the destination denominations? Is there any sort of exit interview attempted by parish, deanery, or diocese representatives when someone departs? There are several publicly declared ex-Orthodox maintaining presence on the internet. Might interviewing them shed light on these questions? Thank you.

Over the years, I have spoken with those who have stopped attending the Orthodox Church. I’m more than happy to talk with anyone who wants to talk with me. However, I can’t respond meaningfully to someone who neglects (as in this case) to leave me a valid email address or some other contact information.Unfortunately, the data the questioner asks about doesn’t exist.

As for the data about why people leave the Church, it doesn’t exist. For my part, I’m happy to work to collect that data but that means a relatively large number of people need to speak with me about their experiences. Until then, the best I have in anecdotal information about what motivates someone to leave. More importantly, without at least a significant body of first-hand accounts, we not only can’t fix any problems, we can’t even identify problems in any meaningful fashion

More importantly, for the Church without a significant body of first-hand accounts, we not only can’t fix any problems, we can’t even identify problems in any meaningful fashion

As for the phrase “when the first flush of faith fades,” while the phrase is sharp, in context I’m talking about someone’s faith in the Orthodox Church, not Jesus Christ. Losing one’s faith in the Church doesn’t necessarily mean losing one’s faith in Christ. Neither, however, does losing one’s faith in the Church preclude an immature Chrisitan faith or indeed a loss of faith in Christ. Again, without talking to the person and without a broader context within which to interpret someone’s story, it’s hard to say why someone leaves (or indeed for that matter, stays).

In any case, No Spam if you, or anyone else, wants to talk about why you are no longer active in the Orthodox Church, I’m more than willing to listen to your story.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory