Book Review: From Baptist to Byzantium

From Baptist to Byzantium
How a Baptist Missionary Traveled Halfway Around
the World to Find the Ancient Orthodox Faith
James Early
Regina Orthodox Press

I first met the author of this book on Facebook. As a fellow Orthodox priest I like to friend as many others as I can. Fr. James and I began a discussion long before I even knew he wrote this wonderful book. So I asked for a copy to review for the blog and he sent me one. Thanks Fr. James!

The book is one of the books I read on my recent retreat and I have to say I could not put the book down. Fr. James has a very easy writing style that makes it easy to picture everything he is writing about. His ability to pour out his thoughts in written form make this book, in this reviewers mind, a new classic of Orthodox Spirituality.

As the subtitle suggests, this book traces the journey of a baptist missionary home to the ancient faith. Fr. James is the second person I know who converted to Orthodoxy whilst serving as a missionary in an Orthodox country. The struggles that he and his family faced are very common to those who come to the Orthodox Church from an Evangelical Protestant background.

I will share one quote from the book as I think it sums up the feelings to a tee:

“Now, I was facing one of the greatest challenges of my life: persuading a bunch of hormone-driven seventh and eighth graders to want to learn math! Jennifer and I had frozen in Prague, battled drought and angry nationals in Tuzla, been evacuated from Banja Luka, had nearly been snowed under in Sarajevo, and had experienced a crisis of faith that led to the end of our careers. After all this, I thought that teaching in the good old U.S.A. would easy. Boy was I wrong!”

After the story ends, the valuable part of the book is the appendix. Fr. James includes very helpful hints in dealing with relatives or friends questioning conversion and lists several helpful books. Every Orthodox Should have these books in their own library and if they have not read them they need too.

Fr. James, welcome home and thanks for putting your story on paper for the ages to read. I would recommend this book to all Orthodox and to those of you who would be considering a conversion.

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