Skip to comments.The Journey Home - April 27 @ 8pm - Doug Grandon former Episcopal clergyman
Posted on 04/27/2009 1:50:08 PM PDT by NYer
Lead Kindly Light!
Just yesterday, an Evangelical Free Church pastor inquired over lunch about my journey from the Free Church to the Episcopal Church and on to the Catholic Church. As Cardinal Newman once noted, ones conversion story is a bit too complicated to be quickly recounted between the salad and main course of a dinner.
I became a Christian after first hearing the gospel from a young man named Dan in a Christian coffee shop in downtown Sterling, Illinois. It was there that I was first confronted with the question, Are you a Christian? When I replied that I wasnt sure, Dan arranged to meet with me every other week for Bible study and conversation. In November 1972, I prayed that Christ would forgive my sins. In February 1973, at the age of fourteen, I was baptized.
During the next five years, I attended Dans church, a small Pentecostal Church, on the wrong side of the tracks. The pastor was a self-taught, but serious Bible teacher, who emphasized that God had called us to holiness and service. However, his leadership style was overly dictatorial and he was much too confident in his ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was in that church that I first met my wife, Lynn, when I was fourteen, and, at sixteen years of age, felt a definite call to ordained ministry.
After five years in that Pentecostal Church, and having completed two years of college, a faithful missionary invited me to spend a summer with a Protestant pastor in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where I was tutored in Serbo-Croatian. That missionary offered to support me if I would remain in Belgrade and enroll in the Institute for Foreign Languages, which I was happy to do. For the next five years, I assisted his mission as a translator/interpreter in Communist Yugoslavia.
Upon returning to the U.S., I married my wife, completed my final two years at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and then proceeded to seminary. I first earned an MA in Religion from Liberty University, then an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the Evangelical Free Church seminary. I was ordained in the Free Church, and started Glen Hill Evangelical Free Church in Peoria, which still exists today.
During that time, I met Edward MacBurney, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, a committed evangelical and Anglo-Catholic, and a godly man. We enjoyed each others company and met regularly for lunch. During the course of our numerous conversations, he recommended that I read Tom Howards Evangelical is Not Enough. (Dr. Howard was kind enough to meet me one day for breakfast in Wheaton.)
Bishop MacBurney convinced me that my Evangelical experience was deficient.
Several points of Catholic theology became clear to me at that time: apostolic succession, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the role of saints as mediators, the value of liturgy, the sacrifice of the Mass, etc. My early Pentecostal experience had infected me with a strong prejudice against the Catholic Church. To overcome this, God led me into the Church in short steps, from Pentecostalism to mainstream Evangelicalism, and across the bridge of Anglicanism. To this day, I am grateful for each of those churches.
When the timing was appropriate for me to leave my Evangelical Free Church, I became Episcopalian. Bishop MacBurney made it very clear to me that the Episcopal Church was rapidly abandoning its catholic and biblical roots. I was aware, however, that the world-wide Anglican Communion included a strong evangelical wing, which was profoundly committed to evangelization, good preaching, holy living, and serious academic work - and that Anglo-Catholics still defended those catholic convictions championed by Cardinal Newman prior to his Catholic conversion. I felt comfortable exploring the catholic tradition in a church populated by such evangelical leaders as Alister McGrath, Jim Packer, and John Stott.
During my Anglican years, I completed my doctoral course work at St. Louis University. With my doctoral advisor, Ken Parker (a convert himself), I engaged in a serious reading of Newman. With Kens help, I began to understand the profound importance of Newmans Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. (Development was the answer to sola scriptura, which seemed more and more untenable.) My dissertation research on Flacius Illyricus, an immediate successor to Luther and the first Protestant historian, reinforced my doubts about Protestant separation from Rome.
In preparation for ordination to the Anglican priesthood, I was sent to Oxford for a year of post-doctoral theological study. Oxford was fantastic. However, at St. Stephens House, I witnessed firsthand the serious degeneration of the Anglo-Catholic movement. I was shocked that the principal allowed a practicing homosexual to remain in residence and was admitting women, who would eventually be ordained to the priesthood.
My Episcopal bishop, Keith Ackerman, allowed me to transfer to Wycliffe Hall, the evangelical Anglican college, on the other side of Oxford. Scholarship was much more serious there, as was an evangelical commitment to the faith. Wycliffe Hall was marvelous in many ways, although sacraments, episcopacy and other catholic hallmarks were given minimal attention.
I flew back to the U.S. to be ordained to the transitional diaconate in May, 1999, but backed out. I almost became Catholic at that point. My wife and I discussed the matter after I returned to England. We concluded that I should proceed with ordination, in order to support my bishop, who had himself indicated that he might one day become Catholic. Later that summer, I was ordained to the diaconate. Bishop Ackerman assured me that he had authority to ordain me, not simply an Episcopal priest, but a priest in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. After all, he told me, Anglicans do represent the third branch of the Catholic faith. (The first and second branches are, according to this theory, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.)
As Bishop Ackerman later observed, I was a faithful and obedient Episcopal priest. Nevertheless, I began to question the validity of Anglican orders, which, of course, directly led to doubts about the validity of Anglican sacraments. For me, the fundamental problem was neither the ordination of women nor the toleration of homosexual practice. Most fundamentally, I could no longer confidently assert that Anglican orders were valid. This led to my contacting Bishop Daniel Jenky, who had been recently ordained as Ordinary for the Diocese of Peoria, to whom I expressed my desire to take concrete steps toward entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.
For a number of years, I had been reading Catholic authors and the Church Fathers. In Oxford, I had met an elderly French Jesuit, Bertrand de Margerie, at a Newman Conference. He kept in touch, encouraging my conversion and my application for Catholic priesthood. Also in Oxford, I had heard Christopher Haighs lectures, offering his revisionist (and true!) explanation of the nature of the English Reformation. Others were also quite helpful, including a Catholic, former undergraduate professor, several Catholic priests in the Dioceses of Peoria and Davenport, and numerous Catholic laymen active in the pro-life movement.
When I first met with Bishop Jenky, I made it very clear that I was coming with no expectations whatsoever. I needed the Church; the Church did not need me. The Church did not owe me employment nor, even more certainly, Catholic priesthood. Bishop Jenky was kind enough to respond that he was very much open to having a married, former Anglican minister/priest among his diocesan clergy. (He subsequently made sure this was the case with his Presbyteral Council.) We also spoke about my interest in Russia, where I had lectured each winter for the previous four years. Bishop Jenky spoke most encouragingly about this as a possibility for future ministry. Bishop Ackerman attended my second meeting with Bishop Jenky. He graciously and semi-officially transferred me from his jurisdiction to that of Bishop Jenky. (A bronze bust of Cardinal Newman hovered over the table where we spoke.)
It was a bittersweet day when I left Christ Episcopal Church. I loved celebrating the Eucharist on Saturday, Sunday, and during the week. I spent hours preparing my homilies. I joyfully taught Adult Education, First Communion, and Confirmation classes. I enjoyed visiting my flock, especially the sick and elderly, and most especially when I could bring them communion. We had just completed a large addition to our church building, without incurring debt. I had a good reputation in the community and I was quite well paid. When I departed, I wondered, like Cardinal Newman (who also converted in his mid-forties), whether the best chapters of my life had already been written. My wife and I werent sure how we would support our family of six.
My wife, four of our children, and I entered the Church at a vigil Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Moline, Illinois on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 2003. My first year in the Church, I was blessed to serve as Spiritual Director and Chairman of the Theology Department at Assumption High School in Davenport, Iowa. At the end of that year, Bishop Jenky appointed me the Director of the Office of Catechetics for the Diocese of Peoria, where I served with great delight the past four years.
In September, 2006, I traveled to Immaculate Conception Seminary in the Archdiocese of Newark, for the seven initial examinations required by the Pastoral Provision for former Anglican clergy. In November, 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith officially notified Bishop Jenky that they were positively disposed toward my candidacy for priesthood. This past February, I successfully completed the final written and oral examinations on the seven subjects. On April 18, the Congregation authorized Bishop Jenky to proceed with my ordination. On May 24, 2008, Bishop Jenky ordained me, along with five seminarians, to the Catholic priesthood. (Three of the six are former Episcopalians, although I am the only former Episcopal priest/minister.) I presently serve as Parochial Vicar (Associate Pastor) at Sacred Heart Church in Moline, where I was received five years ago.
It appears as I write this testimonial, that there may be a sizeable exodus of bishops, priests, and laypeople from the Church of England into the Catholic Church, led by my friend and former professor, Bishop Andrew Burnham. Please pray for him and all those who find themselves in the Valley of Decision. My message to those pondering full communion with the Catholic Church: Be not afraid. Obey your informed conscience. If you depart your present church, make sure you leave honorably. Be not afraid.
For those who enjoy this program.
Nice post. Thanks
Thanks for the post and ping.
It helped me a lot when I was making my conversion to the RCC.
Best decision I ever made. I love the RCC.
:-) ... and so do I. Keep in mind, though, that the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase "autonomous ritual Churches" to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches. It is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church's unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this nicely:
"From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity" (CCC no. 814).
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his of her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.
Does this require special circumstances or his/her Bishop's permission? Also, if you happen to know, what is the requirements from the Eastern view?
No it does not.
2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass."117 "The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day."118
Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.
§2. If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.
Absolutely not. Catholic is Catholic; same faith, different flavor. You may attend Mass in any Catholic Church in communion with Rome.
This is still confusing to many Catholics in the west. Perhaps because we were never 'introduced' to the Eastern Catholic Churches through our religious education programs or homilies. Our pastor, BTW, is bi-ritual; Maronite and Latin Rites. He has both faculties and assists the RC priests in this diocese by saying the NO Mass at a local Catholic hospital. Meanwhile, the RC bishop has closed another 12 churches and those RCs are looking for a new parish. We always welcome visitors and invite them to return. Last Sunday we had an elderly couple who just lost their parish. They loved the Maronite liturgy and its reverence.
Also, if you happen to know, what is the requirements from the Eastern view?
I'm not sure I understand your question. Last year, our pastor had to go home to Lebanon to baptize the newest nephew and take care of some personal business. Not wanting to leave us without a pastor, he sought out a retired RC priest. Initially, the priest was reluctant to say Mass at our parish but Father showed him canonical code to reassure him. While our pastor was away, the RC priest said the NO Mass in our small church and we welcomed him with open arms. He loved the experience!
I’m sorry. I read the material carefully and still was ignorant. I was thinking of Eastern Orthodox.