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How a Baptist Missionary Traveled Halfway Around the World To Find the Ancient Orthodox Faith - by Father James Early

From Baptist to Byzantium
From Baptist to Byzantium
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What would be the most powerful testimony to the spiritual truth of Orthodoxy? How about a story of a Protestant American missionary sent to convert the Orthodox to his evangelical faith who instead converts to Orthodoxy! This unique, entertaining and uplifting story has been endorsed by so many leading Orthodox bishops, priests and writers.

Advance Praise for This Book



A gifted writer – and a devout, Christ-loving priest – Father James Early skillfully takes his readers along on the adventures which he undertook with his wife Jennifer. In From Baptist to Byzantium we become the Earlys’ fellow travelers from Texas to Prague to Tuzla to Banja Luka as we experience what they experience, see what they see, hear what they hear. But their – our! – real adventure is not the journey from the U.S. to the Czech Republic to Bosnia, but an improbable journey from earth to heaven which began with one step that the author took into Banja Luka's Church of the Holy Trinity. I am grateful for the invitation to go along with the Earlys on this God-directed adventure and am sure that you, dear reader, will be too!



+ B A S I L
Bishop of Wichita and the Diocese of Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese






Fr. James’s story of his conversion is a look at the courageous struggle he and his family had to go through to follow God’s will and become Orthodox Christians. Because of Fr. James’s time in the Baptist Church and as a foreign missionary he has a very unique understanding of the Orthodox Church from the outside. His story is one of a change in perspective and seeing things in a new way. His experience of looking into the Orthodox Church from a Protestant “point of view” should be very helpful for others that are finding themselves in the same situation or circumstances. Fr. James reminds the reader that his conversion to Orthodoxy was not just about aesthetics or “smells & bells.” His conversion was drawing closer to the Christ found in the Gospels and the ancient community that Christ established.



The V. Rev. Fr. Matthew Mackay, Pastor
St. Joseph Orthodox Church, Houston, TX






What if a former missionary penned a story about his journey to Orthodoxy in a writing style reminiscent of a good Southern Baptist? Suppose there was someone who could speak/write/teach like a Baptist though using newly discovered precepts of the ancient faith. That would be a rarity. Many adult converts to Orthodox Christianity leave behind not only their former beliefs, but also their former vocabulary. Then, especially if they write about it, they seem to acquire another tongue to tell the tale; or worse, their writing is laced with anger and resentment at their former denomination. Not here. Fr James Early writes like a Baptist who loves the Lord and as a seeker who traveled the world to, much to his surprise, find the Church.



The Rev. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, assistant priest, St. George Orthodox Church, Houston, TX and author of One Flew Over the Onion Dome and Defeating Sin






Fr. James Early’s book From Baptist to Byzantium is an absolute must read for all converts to the Orthodox Christian faith. His style is simple, clear and personable. Those who are lifelong “cradle” Orthodox will also be blessed and enlightened by it. The combination of his having been an engineer, a missionary, and a school teacher make him an excellent communicator of deep and important truths. Read it – you’ll enjoy it! Having made a similar journey, being raised in a faithful Baptist family, going to a Baptist college, graduating from the same Baptist seminary as Fr. James, and having served 12 ½ years as a Baptist pastor and missionary, I fully entered into the struggles he describes so well in his book. Even if your denominational background is different than Fr. James’ and mine, I believe you will be enlightened and encouraged by his and Jennifer’s journey. If you are one who has struggled with your faith journey, this book will bless you.



The V. Rev. Fr. Gordon Walker, Pastor Emeritus, St. Ignatius Orthodox Church, Franklin, TN, and president, Grace Ministries, Inc.






In this moving story of his family's encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy, Father James Early reminds us that Truth often comes at a great price. But as he struggles to come to terms with ancient Orthodox Christianity – as he discovers Christ in the hearts of its people, in its doctrine, and in its worship – he also proves it is well worth the cost. This book is an excellent general introduction to the Orthodox faith, and a must-read for evangelical Christians involved with mission work in Orthodox countries.



Matthew Gallatin, Orthodox teacher, speaker, and author of Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells and the Pilgrims from Paradise podcast on Ancient Faith Radio






Remarkable things can happen to those who earnestly seek the Truth and courageously follow Christ wherever He leads them. Father James Early’s account of discovering the richness of Orthodoxy through ministering to Bosnian Christians as a Baptist missionary will both inspire and enlighten its readers. What would possibly possess a family man to surrender a familiar environment, a secure income, and a solid reputation within his own faith community? I urge you to explore that question throughout the pages of this book and to find out for yourself how fulfilling and utterly persuasive the answer can be.



Molly Sabourin, author of the Close to Home weblog and Ancient Faith Radio podcast and contributing editor of The Handmaiden magazine.






God guides people to the Church in varied and often unexpected ways, and it is always a blessing to hear converts to Orthodoxy share their testimony – but Fr. James Early's account of how he went to Bosnia as a Baptist on a mission to convert the Serbs, and came back a convert to Orthodoxy, is one that is especially fascinating and edifying to read.



The Rev. Fr. John Whiteford, Pastor, St. Jonah of Manchuria Orthodox Church, Houston, TX, and author of Sola Scriptura






While on a mission to bring the Truth of Christ to the people of Bosnia, the author finds himself swept up into the heavenly worship of the indigenous Bosnian faithful. While honoring the strengths of his Baptist background, Fr. James recounts his own journey to the Holy Orthodox Church, plainly presenting how Orthodox Christianity shows itself to be not a replica of a first century faith community, but the Ancient Church itself. From Baptist to Byzantium will engage Evangelical seekers and resonate with Protestant missionaries who have served in Eastern European lands.



The Rev. Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist, Pastor, All Saints Orthodox Christian Church, Bloomington, IN, and best-selling recording artist






This book is an engaging account of the conversion to Orthodox Christianity by a Baptist missionary preacher, the personal and practical challenges he faced and his spiritual and intellectual struggle with theological questions raised when history and Scripture clashed with deeply-held, cherished beliefs. The unfolding of God's plan in the life of one young couple, their openness to following the path which the Holy Spirit gradually revealed to them and how their faith and trust in God sustained and guided them is both a unique personal story, but also one which will resonate with every reader.



Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, adjunct professor of biblical studies, University of San Diego, and host of the “Search the Scriptures” podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.






Table of Contents



Preface
Prologue
1. Preparatio Evangelio
- Beginnings
- Movement
- Receiving Jesus

2. Growth
- Involvement
- Georgetown
- Calling
- Reality

3. Seminary
- Provision
- Marching Orders

4. Missions
- Prague
- Change of Scenery
- Crossing
- Life in Tuzla
- Ministry in Tuzla

5. Intermission
- Departure
- Rest and Refitting

6. Return
- Banja Luka
- Redeployment
- Starting Over
- Dangerous Reading

7. The New Testament Church
- The Early Church was Liturgical
- The Early Church was Hierarchical
- The Early Church was Sacramental
- The Early Church did not Believe in Sola Scriptura

8. Infant Baptism
- Biblical and Patristic Support
- The Meaning of Baptism
- “Believers’ Baptism”
- The Age of Accountability

9. Heaven on Earth?
- The Church of the Holy Trinity
- The Worship of Heaven
- Mary

10. Crisis
- Changes
- Outside Help

11. More Reading
- Father Paul and Saint Paul
- The Fathers and The Way
- The Church

12. Intermission, Part Two
- Worship
- Retreat

13. Orthodox at Heart
- Undercover
- Resignation
- Final Departure

14. An End and A Beginning
- Changes
- Sorrow and Joy
- The End of the Beginning

Appendix
Annotated Bibliography
Other Recommended Resources