Fr. Jon Braun, Our Founding Pastor (Now Located in Santa Barbara)
MEET OUR FOUNDING PASTOR, FATHER JON E. BRAUN
Fr. Jon Braun was the first pastor of St. Anthony, assigned here shortly after a committed core of visionary lay people, with a passion to bring Orthodoxy to America, laid the groundwork for the establishment of this parish. He was to be here for only six months, but we prevailed upon him and upon Metropolitan Philip to have him remain, and those six months turned into the first thirteen years of our parish life, as we all labored together in the building of this wonderful spiritual home.
Raised in the home of a Presbyterian minister, the only career Fr. Jon ever considered, even from early childhood, was Christian ministry, and all of his education was geared toward this goal. After receiving a Master of Divinity degree from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, he was ordained to the ministry in the Evangelical Covenant Church of America.
Youth ministry was the entire early focus for the Brauns. Four years as youth pastor in two Covenant Churches were followed by two years as Chaplain, Bible teacher and coach at Minnehaha Academy, an Evangelical Covenant Christian high school in Minneapolis.
In 1960, the Brauns joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, a collegiate evangelistic organization, where they served for eight years. During the first six years Fr. Jon started the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry on more than a dozen campuses in the Southeastern United States, including such schools as the University of Miami, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and the University of Alabama. The final two years of their Campus Crusade experience found the Brauns back in California, where Fr. Jon served as the National Field Coordinator for Campus Crusade Christ, traveling during those years to scores of campuses in the U.S. and Canada and speaking to hundreds of thousands of college men and women.
It was during the Campus Crusade years that Fr. Jon became acquainted seven men who would be his close companions in a remarkable twenty-year journey to the historic Orthodox Church, a journey that began in the late sixties when their attention was solidly riveted to “the Church,” whatever that might mean or be. Having diligently searched the New Testament on the subject of the Church during New Testament times, they turned to Church history and the writings of the Church Fathers to see how the Church continued to develop after the death of the Apostles. In both of these areas of study they discovered, quite contrary to their beliefs at the time, a solidly united, young, vibrant Church developing with a clearly hierarchical, creedal, liturgical and sacramental expression. Further historical pursuit convinced them that the ancient Church was known both as “Catholic” and “Orthodox” and was, in fact, what they needed to be. Astonishingly, assuming such a Church no longer existed they set about to “restore” it and as a result, in 1979, founded the Evangelical Orthodox Church.
Discovering shortly thereafter that the ancient historic Orthodox Church was alive, well, and quite large and strong, especially in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, they realized they had no choice but to pursue a course that would bring them into communion with historic Orthodoxy. Consequently, in 1987, along with seventeen of their congregations, numbering approximately two thousand people, they were brought into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. It was at this time Fr. Jon was ordained to the priesthood in the Holy Orthodox Church.
For the first dozen years as an Orthodox priest, Fr. Jon taught Church History, Greek, Latin and Communication Skills at St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology in Santa Barbara. During part of that time he was also the Director of the Department of Campus Ministry for the our Archdiocese, and then for another four years of those years he served in the Department of Missions and Evangelism of our Archdiocese, establishing new Orthodox churches.
The combination of Fr. Jon’s past experience and the vision of the members of the new mission of St. Anthony was a perfect fit, literally “made in heaven,” we believe. It has always been front and center in our intention to bring this glorious historic faith to Americans of all backgrounds, and we labored together unhesitatingly to this end.
Fr. Jon is currently the Pastor Emeritus of St. Anthony Orthodox Church and dean of the Southern California Deanery of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. He still concentrates on the development of a thoroughly American Church that adheres faithfully to the two-thousand year Tradition of the Orthodox Church. At the same time, he carries on a bridge-building ministry to Christians of all persuasions with a view towards bringing them into contact with historic Orthodoxy and helping Orthodox Christians take their place as “salt and light” in the life of American culture.
The Brauns have been married for some fifty-six years and have five children, sixteen grand-children, and four great-grandchildren.