The Rapidian Home

Ethics and Religion Talk: How Do I Convert to Your Faith?

If you were approached by someone who was considering conversion to your faith what steps would you encourage them to take? Can conversion take place “on the spot,” or is it somewhat of a process? And what might be required of an individual?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved 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].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of 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 most often is a process with a beginning, a middle, and an end point 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 the outer life. For some the beginning can seem quite sudden; for many others it is experienced over a longer time. ‘Sudden conversion’ in fact is almost always only a critical point in a much longer process; it is certainly not the endpoint.

“There is also a human process by which those who have come to personal faith in Christ are acknowledged and received into church membership. A big part of every Presbyterian or Reformed minister’s work is to counsel and instruct such persons in the basics of our faith and what is expected from communicant members of the church. Candidates for membership are examined by the ruling body of the local church, known as the session or consistory. If their profession of faith is deemed credible, that is, intelligent, sincere, and unforced, they are commended 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 endpoints, but only the beginning of a lifetime of growth in knowledge, grace, personal holiness, and Christian service.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“I begin by assessing the sincerity of the request. If the individual truly wishes to become Catholic, then recommend the individual speak to the Parish Director of Religious Education (DRE) to begin the inquiry process in the Catholic Church called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC).

“The Catholic Church recognizes and teaches that the process of becoming Catholic has changed over the last two millennia. However, one constant remains the need to go through a process. When I entered seminary many years ago, the Rector told us you all came here for the wrong reasons (this is intentionally vague because these are different for each person). The formation process helps a person determine and find the right reasons (again, this is vague because it is different for each person) for staying and becoming a priest.

“The same is true for all the faithful. We become Catholic for the wrong reasons and remain because each person finds the right reasons.”

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“Yes, conversion can take place on the spot, but it can also be the result of a long process of being exposed to the truth of God. In the case of a conversion ‘on the spot,’ I would first make sure that they knew what they were doing and clarify any questions they may have. Then I would lead them through a prayer and explain the benefits that come with their salvation and the privilege they now have to model Christ to the world. In both cases, the ‘on the spot’ conversion and the one resulting from a longer process, I would make sure the person gets the discipleship needed to grow and mature in their faith. In Christianity we see conversion as the beginning of an exciting journey where one gets to grow in faith, in joy, in peace, self control, practice kindness, servanthood, and selflessness by abiding in Christ and His Word. So, I would make sure they understand the importance of obedience and nurturing their faith by the daily reading of the Word of God so they can grow in grace and knowledge. Then, I would encourage them to become a part of a family of faith--a church--so they can have the support and encouragement needed to persevere.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“An act of conversion is not a part of Unitarian Universalism. We celebrate religious diversity, meaning each individual has their own religious beliefs. We do not dictate a set of doctrines one must subscribe or submit to. It would be important for someone new to our faith to understand the basics of our faith tradition, especially accepting others' differing beliefs and encouragement to explore and question 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 takes place by declaring the Shahada or Testimony of Faith. That is for someone to say ‘I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is his Prophet and Messenger.’ If someone is interested in entering into Islam I will typically explain the basic imports of this statement, the Islamic conception of God and Prophethood. If someone believes in these things they are basically Muslim and the only step left is to declare it openly in order to be recognized by the community. This can be done on the spot if someone is ready. Learning the details of practice can come later step by step.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Before anything, it is my responsibility to make sure to the best of my ability that the seeker is making the wisest choice. It is more important for me to act as an impartial advisor helping him or her to discover the spiritual path that resonates the most. I've fielded many a call from those who are disgruntled with the faith of their forebears and looking for something else. Sometimes that results in them attending a ceremony or meditation in a Hindu setting. Other times I might encourage them to experience a new denomination (if they are Christian), or perhaps see what the Buddhists are up to if they seem to be drawn in that direction.

“Traditionally, Hinduism never had an official conversion ceremony similar to baptism. In recent years​ some movements and sects have created their own rituals to welcome newbies. But few would argue that by simply acknowledging your desire to be a Hindu, you become a Hindu. There is no dogmatic creed to which one must assent, but there are a few beliefs that are agreed upon in general. If a person is drawn to those beliefs, and the practices that are encouraged, then not much else is needed.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved 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 Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.