Fr. Irenaios Wiwit Budi Priyono

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Background

I am Fr. Irenaios, I was born into a Pentecostal Christian family in the village of Driyorejo in East Java, a predominantly Muslim area. My parents had converted from Islam to Christianity as young adults. In his childhood and youth he was steeped in Bible study and in the belief that Pentecostalism is the continuation of the original Christian church described in the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.

In 1993 I left my village to begin my course of study in the Pentecostal Bible Seminary, where I was instructed in a hybrid theology that combined elements of both Pentecostalism and mainline Protestantism. I returned to my village after graduation, but I found it difficult to practice my ministry while torn between the two theological perspectives. Eventually I derived my own personal synthesis. I began my ministry in the city of Lasem, Central Java, far from home, and then moved to Wonogiri, which is two hours away from the city of Solo.

Finding Orthodoxy

Soon, however, I found himself in disagreement with the Pentecostal pastor whom I was assisting. Questions arose regarding the continuity between own own practices, on the one hand, and, on the other, those of biblical Christianity. The senior pastor told me that, during a visit to the latter’s home village, I had discovered that some of the Pentecostal Christians there had been influenced by an Orthodox missionary—a missionary of a “heretical” church, according to this pastor. In the past I had been exposed fleetingly to Orthodoxy through a high school friendship, a television program, and a newspaper article. Now, in order to investigate the senior pastor’s claims, I visited my parents and attended a study session led by an Orthodox priest at the home of a Pentecostal Christian in the village. After a period of inquiry, I decided to become an Orthodox Christian. My wife and I received the Sacrament of Baptism from Fr. Daniel Byantoro in July 1999.

Leadership and Ordination

Under the supervision of Fr. Yohannes, I, then still a layman, and my wife, Isidora, started an Orthodox community in the village. More and more we became aware of our identity as members of the ancient Christian Church with its unbroken succession of clergy from apostolic times until today. We and our community entered into an ongoing relationship with Fr. Daniel, who maintained communication with us by e-mail and telephone calls from the U.S. It was at his recommendation that I was ordained to the priesthood of the Indonesian Orthodox Church by Archbishop Hilarion in April 2005 at St. Thomas Church in Jakarta.

Today I serve the community of St. Seraphim of Sarov in my native village, Driyorejo. I am also opening new missions in surrounding cities and towns. I pray that the readers of this story “will be driven to search for more on the way to find the real and true Christianity of the Apostles and early Christians.”