Detroit Becomes Foothold for Orthodox Resurgence

DETROIT (AP) January 23, 2008 — Detroit is emerging as a national center for the rebirth of Orthodox Christian churches, which have deep ethnic roots in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Social scholars say the churches are growing in the United States through immigration and conversion. Next week, many of Detroit’s Orthodox leaders will host the first in a series of conferences planned nationwide for non-Orthodox clergy who want to explore conversion.

The Rev. John Fenton is betting his life on the growing popularity of Orthodox Christianity. He and his wife have packed up their six children from the rectory of a Detroit church where he was a Lutheran pastor until late October. They’ve moved into a small home in Allen Park, leaving behind Fenton’s clergy salary and, soon, his health insurance.

“My wife and I have spent a lot of time in prayer about this whole move, and it is difficult, but we do believe that God is leading us,” Fenton told the Detroit Free Press.

On Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 in Troy Fenton plans to join a small number of clergy nationwide choosing ordination as Orthodox priests. Fenton has lined up 16 former Lutherans as charter members of a new Orthodox parish he plans to open.

Why the fresh interest? Fenton said many Christians feel battered by theological controversies in their own churches. In contrast, he said, Orthodoxy represents an oasis of Christian tradition with its centuries-old style of worship and timeless celebration of the mysterious power of saints.

“So many people feel that the world is constantly changing all around them, and they want to find something that’s so deeply rooted that it won’t change on them,” Fenton said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that Orthodoxy brings to the American table.”

Since the mid-1990s, about 850,000 Americans have been drawn to more than a dozen different divisions of Orthodoxy that have congregations in the U.S.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


  1. Do you know if this conference will be primarily within Detroit or will they travel to other cities? What is the name of the conference?

  2. This I am not sure about. The article seems to say it will move around but we will see. I will try and find more information.

    Thanks for the visit!

  3. I saw this article yesterday on an Orthodox news service and was a bit surprised…the information is a year old! Father Fenton left the Lutheran church in October 2006 and was ordained as an Orthodox priest in February 2007. His parish is Holy Incarnation, an Antiochian Western Rite parish in the Detroit area.

    The first conference was an Orthodox-Anglican colloquium. A second conference was an Orthodox-Lutheran colloquium. Recordings of both can be found on Ancient Faith Radio.

    The most recent news I have heard is that Metropolitan Kalistos Ware will be speaking in Detroit in February…sponsored by St. Andrew House…the same group that sponsored the two previously mentioned conferences.

    I have a friend who attends Holy Incarnation…and, although he was unaware, Father Fenton was an influence in my journey East.

    Hope this helps some!

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