Reverend Ray Lanning, retired pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, responds:
“’Conversion’ is a word with more than one meaning. There is the divine activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration as He works faith in the heart using the preaching of the gospel. No human being has control over this operation of the Spirit, and it is most often a process with a beginning, middle and end only in the next life. Every true Christian is somewhere in this process, and he or she can only observe its effects and fruits in the inner man and in the outer life. For some, the onset may seem quite sudden; for many others, it is experienced over a longer period. The “sudden conversion” is in fact almost always only a critical point in a much longer process; it is certainly not the end point.
“There is also a human process by which those who have come to personal faith in Christ are recognized and accepted as members of the church. A large part of the job of every Presbyterian or Reformed minister is to counsel and instruct these people on the basics of our faith and what is expected of communicant members of the church. Candidates for membership are reviewed by the governing body of the local church, known as the session or presbytery. If their profession of faith is deemed credible, that is, intelligent, sincere and unforced, they are recommended to the Church for public profession of faith and baptism, if they have not been baptized. This human activity is also a process. Public profession and baptism are not end points, but only the beginning of a life of growth in knowledge, grace, personal holiness and Christian service.
Father Kevin Niehoff, OP, a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:
“I start by assessing the sincerity of the request. If the person is serious about becoming a Catholic, recommend that they speak to the parish Director of Religious Education (DRE) to begin the investigative process in the Catholic Church called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) or the rite of Christian initiation. children (RCIC).
“The Catholic Church recognizes and teaches that the process of becoming Catholic has changed over the past two millennia. However, one constant remains the need to go through a process. When I entered the seminary many years ago, the rector told us that you all came here for the wrong reasons (this is intentionally vague because they are different for each person). The training process helps a person determine and find the right reasons (again, it’s vague because it’s different for each person) to stay and become a priest.
“It is the same for all the faithful. One becomes Catholic for the wrong reasons and one remains so because everyone finds the right reasons.
Reverend Sandra Nikkel, senior pastor of the Conklin Reformed Church, responds:
“Yes, conversion can take place on the spot, but it can also be the result of a long process of exposure to God’s truth. In the case of an “on the spot” conversion, I would first make sure they knew what they were doing and clarify any questions they might have. Then I would lead them through prayer and explain to them the benefits that come with their salvation and the privilege they now have of modeling Christ in the world. In both cases, the conversion “on the spot” and that resulting from a longer process, I would ensure that the person obtains the discipleship necessary to grow and mature in his faith. In Christianity, we see conversion as the beginning of an exciting journey where one can grow in faith, in joy, in peace, in self-control, in practicing kindness, service and selflessness in abiding in Christ and in his Word. So I would make sure they understand the importance of obedience and nurturing their faith by reading God’s Word daily so they can grow in grace and knowledge. Then I would encourage them to be part of a family of faith – a church – so they can have the support and encouragement they need to persevere.
Reverend Colleen Squires, pastor at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, responds:
“An act of conversion is not part of unitary universalism. We celebrate religious diversity, which means that each individual has their own religious beliefs. We do not dictate a set of doctrines to which one must subscribe or submit. It would be important for someone new to our faith to understand the basics of our religious tradition, in particular to accept the differing beliefs of others and the encouragement to explore and challenge our own understanding of the big questions in life. .
Imam Kip Curnutt, Director of Religious Education and Associate Imam of Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids, responds:
“Conversion to Islam is done by declaring the Shahada or testimony of faith. That is to say, someone says: “I testify that there is no god worthy of worship other than Allah and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is his Prophet and Messenger. If anyone is interested in entering Islam, I will generally explain the basic imports of this statement, the Islamic view of God and prophethood. If someone believes in these things, they are fundamentally Muslim and the only step left is to openly declare it in order to be recognized by the community. It can be done on the spot if someone is willing. Learning the details of the practice can come later, step by step.
Fred Stella, the Pracharak (minister of outreach) of the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:
“Above all, it is my responsibility to ensure to the best of my abilities that the researcher makes the most judicious choice. It is more important to me to act as an unbiased counselor helping him discover the spiritual path that resonates the most. I have answered many calls from those who are dissatisfied with the faith of their ancestors and are looking for something else. Sometimes this leads them to attend a ceremony or meditation in a Hindu setting. Other times I might encourage them to experience a new denomination (if they are Christians), or maybe see what Buddhists are doing if they seem to be drawn in that direction.
“Traditionally, Hinduism has never had an official conversion ceremony similar to baptism. In recent years, some movements and sects have created their own rituals to welcome beginners. to be a Hindu, you become a Hindu. There is no dogmatic belief that one must adhere to, but there are a few beliefs that are generally accepted. If a person is attracted to those beliefs and the practices that are encouraged, then not not much else is needed.
This column answers questions of ethics and religion by putting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders from the Grand Rapids area. We would love to hear about common ethical questions that arise in your day as well as religious questions you have. Tell us how you solved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].
The Rapidiana 501(c)3 non-profit organization program Community Media Centerrelies on community support to help defray the cost of training journalists and publishing content.
We need your help.
If each of our readers and content creators who enjoy this community platform helps support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around the issues for years to come.
Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.