Blessings and thank you John and Robin for your kind welcome,
John, I would be happy to share my thoughts, and experiences, that if God wills may help show how I found why the fullness of the faith is only in the Orthodox faith.
As a child, and perceiving things as a child, all I knew at that time of Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church of the 60?s, and then only the parish which my family attended, however to me back then it reflected all of the Christian faith.
I heard many words of love, forgiveness and everything that sounded right, but then I witnessed much cruelty and injustice from some of the teachers at the Catholic school I attended, and at times the priest would stand there watching and condoning these actions.
To me at the time, I didn?t see it as the actions of a few misguided individuals as they represented the authority of the Church, so it symbolized all things Christian. Then, if I questioned what I had seen to my parents I was told what I was saying could not be true.
One example, when I was about six or seven years of age, two of the classes would regularly come together numbering about eighty students and we were made to kneel while each child was made to recite a prayer, starting with the girls and in alphabetical order according to our names, the girls being given a small pillow for their knees whereas the boys knelt on the wooden boards.
The two teachers, one of which was a Nun, along with the priest would stand watching and one would be holding a yard long ruler and would not hesitate to strike a student if he or she would make an error in their recital of the prayer given to them.
The whole process could often take nearly two hours and if we fidgeted due to our knees hurting or our legs beginning to cramp we would often feel the ruler for our disrespect for God.
Fortunately, I had been gifted with a good memory for such things and as I was one of the first boys to pray my wait was not as long as others, but for those who came later or who had become stressed by the ordeal, they often made many errors and received their punishment.
When the time of my Confirmation came, I wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ and became ill at the thought of committing myself to this supposed religion, still having the understanding that this was Christianity.
My parents insisted that I still be confirmed and that my sickness was just nerves and so in my own way I prayed that something would happen to stop what was happening. About a week before the ceremony, I became more sick than usual and was taken to a doctor who admitted me to hospital because my appendix was about to rupture and was giving out toxins that had been the cause of my illness.
From that point on I knew there was some higher power, but I was also fully convinced that higher power did not want me confirmed into what I was equally convinced was a false religion, so throughout my teens and into my young adulthood I would privately study any faith I should hear of from Islam to Buddhism, Native American to Druidism and even delved into the occult and New age.
My hair grew long, I rode a Harley and associated with people that, like myself, lived a lifestyle of drugs, crime and all things opposite to Christianity and if I should speak with a Christian, I would do all I could to tear down their faith in the genuine belief I was doing them some kind of favor, oblivious to the fact I would manipulate and misquote the scriptures to achieve my desire to destroy their beliefs. However, I never even considered that although many of those with me would fall afoul of the law, some died and so on, I always came out on top. To me, it must have been my superior abilities that protected me from any consequences.
This continued until much of my life turned upside down, all the things precious to me were stolen, my dog who I considered my best friend was poisoned, I had a series of motor vehicle accidents, four of which I should have been killed and of these, twice the attending police asked where was the body of the driver while I stood before them. Still, it never occurred to me tha God may have had His hand on my life.
In time I settled down and married and my animosity also decreased and being now a slightly more mature adult, I could look back and see the errors I had seen in my childhood lay with the individuals concerned, not the Church of which they were a member, nor Christianity in general.
As my search for the true faith did full circle and all came up lacking, I returned to Christianity with a new outlook, although still very suspicious of many groups calling themselves Churches.
After joining a Pentecostal gathering, thinking any church would do as long as it wasn?t Roman Catholic, I again began hearing teachings that didn?t match the scriptures so I began reading the Bible again, but with a new perspective, being aware that all people made errors, were sinful, prideful and so on, and this very much included myself.
I would take my Bible everywhere and every chance I had I would read it until I had read it from cover to cover including the Deuterocanonical Books and soon confirmed the Roman Church was teachings things that conflicted with the scriptures, even their own Catholic translation that I had been reading from. Some examples are their Immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary doctrine, Infallibility of the Roman Pope, Primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Filioque addition to the Nicene Creed and others.
However, I also found the gathering I attended also held to even more false beliefs and after some research found this was common amongst all Protestantism, and when questioned on this, the excuses that I was given to justify their reasoning was as equally as twisted as I had been when I had attempted to turn others from the faith of Jesus Christ.
The one defense put to me that did hit a nerve, so to speak, was what makes me think I must be right and everybody else wrong and that I was just being prideful and arrogant, yet at the same time the Pastor asked me to teach at the Bible college he was in the process of starting and publicly directed the congregation to me if they had any questions concerning the Scriptures, as if to say I was some kind of authority.
Although the Pastor?s words to the people did successfully boost my pride, not that it needed any assistance, his other words seemed to make sense, being why would I be correct yet everyone else wrong. However, these comments also seemed to conflict, if I was so wrong, then why ask me to teach or send others to me with their questions. As I knew I wouldn't get any sensible answer from he Pastor I knew I had to look elsewhere to find out what was going on.
At that point, I began to study the early church and as a result of spinal and shoulder nerve damage from my accidents I was medically retired so I had ample time to spend doing the research and whenever I needed some sort of resource, it always became available just at the right time and always at the right price as we were financially struggling due to my loss of income.
My purpose was to ascertain what was the correct interpretation of scripture as the Holy Spirit first inspired it within those whom the Word of God confirms were anointed teachers of the faith such as the earliest Bishops etc.
Knowing that the Word of God declares that The Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit never changes it was evident that the truth that they as persons or as one would never conflict or altar from what has already been declared or inspired as truth and so I confirmed that both the Catholic additions and Protestant modifications were never part of the faith as it was first heard.
The final part of my journey to the Oriental Orthodox Churches, specifically the Coptic Church, occurred when I began to seek out a Church that still held to the original doctrines of faith. My method was to study the history of the Church to find out how and why the faith had branched out into so many variations, my hope was to backtrack and see if any of the original still existed and if they still held to what they had once believed.
During my search, I found a pattern started to form at the Council of Chalcedon, the Church split in two, the Oriental Orthodox on one side and the Roman Church on the other, which included the Eastern Orthodox as they were subject to Rome at that time. Then I applied the Biblical command to judge by the fruits and when I studied further I found the fruits of Chalcedon on the Roman side was division and variations in the faith in countless forms if we include all the branches that sprung from them.
On the other hand, all the evidence I found against the Oriental Orthodox on a corporate level was fabricated when fully examined such as that they are Monophysite. Also, I found evidence of tampering of Council minutes within the Latin versions as well as other incriminating evidence.
As the Word of god states there is only one ?Body of Christ? and only one ?faith?, it was evident that both sides could not be correct in their claims and as only the Oriental Orthodox maintained the faith as it had first been heard and their fruits showed consistency with the scriptures then I no longer had any doubts where I should go.
As all through this, I regularly found references to the Church of Alexandria I then spent about two years, confirming all my findings and examining the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church to confirm it was the same Church of Alexandria and not a counterfeit of the one I was seeking.
Once fully convicted, I approached the Coptic Orthodox Church most convenient to me and spoke to one of the priests there, a man who radiates the love of God through His very demeanor. He in turn introduced me to His Grace Bishop Daniel, who after greeting me simply said, ?Baptize him?.
For all of this, what I have been shown, the blessing of the injuries that ruined my career but left me with the time to be shown it, and everything else that has brought me to the Church, all I can say further is I don?t know why the Lord has granted me to stand before Him, except His unlimited mercy upon someone who had elected to become His enemy and His great compassion on someone in showing him the way when he was totally blind.
Peace and love to all