Skip to comments.EWTN - NO PRICE TOO HIGH - Pentecostal minister Alex Jones story
Posted on 03/03/2010 10:14:34 AM PST by NYer
NO PRICE TOO HIGH (1 hr)
The profound conversion story of a Protestant minister who brought his congregation with him into the Catholic Church. The viewer will discover the sacrificial yet triumphant journey of a man of deep integrity and love for Christ.
Wed 3/3/10 10:00 PM ET / 7 PM PT
Sat 3/6/10 5:00 AM ET / 2 AM PT
When Detroit-born Alex Jones became a Pentecostal minister in 1972, there was little question among those who knew him that he was answering God's call to preach.
Now, many of his friends and family have dismissed the 59-year-old pastor as an apostate for embracing the Catholic faith, closing the nondenominational church he organized in 1982, and taking part of his congregation with him.
At this year's April 14 Easter Vigil, Jones, his wife, Donna, and 62 other former members of Detroit's Maranatha Church, was received into the Catholic Church at St. Suzanne's Parish. For Jones, becoming a Catholic will mark the end of a journey that began with the planting of a seed by Catholic apologist and Register columnist Karl Keating. It also will mean the beginning of a new way of life.
Jones first heard Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers, at a debate on whether the origins of the Christian church were Protestant or Catholic. At the close, Keating asked, "If something took place, who would you want to believe, those who saw it or those who came thousands of years later and told what happened?"
"Good point," Jones thought, and tucked it away. Five years later, while he was reading about the church fathers, Keating's question resurfaced. Jones began a study of the Church's beginnings, sharing his newfound knowledge with his congregation.
To illustrate what he was talking about, in the spring of 1998 he re-enacted an early worship service, never intending to alter his congregation's worship style. "But once I discovered the foundational truths and saw that Christianity was not the same as I was preaching, some fine-tuning needed to take place."
Soon, Maranatha Church's Sunday service was looking more like a Catholic Mass with Pentecostal overtones. "We said all the prayers with all the rubrics of the Church, all the readings, the Eucharistic prayers. We did it all, and we did it with an African-American style."
Not everyone liked the change, however, and the 200-member congregation began to dwindle. Meanwhile, Jones contacted Detroit's Sacred Heart Seminary and was referred to Steve Ray of Milan, Mich., whose conversion story is told in Crossing the Tiber.
"I set up a lunch with him right away and we pretty much had lunch every month after that," said Ray. He introduced Jones to Dennis Walters, the catechist at Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor, Mich. Walters began giving the Pentecostal pastor and his wife weekly instructions in March, 1999.
Eventually, Jones and his congregation arrived at a crossroads. On June 4, the remaining adult members of Maranatha Church voted 39-19 to begin the process of becoming Catholic. In September, they began studies at St. Suzanne's.
Maranatha closed for good in December. The congregation voted to give Jones severance pay and sell the building, a former Greek Orthodox church, to the First Tabernacle Church of God in Christ.
Father Dennis Duggan, St. Suzanne's 53-year-old pastor, said the former Maranatha members and their pastor along with about 10 other candidates comprise the 750-member parish's largest-ever convert class.
UNITY AND DIVERSITY
Although not all parishioners at predominantly white St. Suzanne's have received the group warmly, Father Duggan, who also is white, said he considers the newcomers a gift and an answer to prayer.
"What the Lord seems to have brought together in the two of us Alex and myself is two individuals who have a similar dream about diversity. Detroit is a particularly segregated kind of community, especially on Sunday morning, and here you've got two baptized believers who really believe we ought to be looking different."
Father Duggan hopes eventually to bring Jones onto the parish staff. Already, he has encouraged Jones to join him in teaching at a Wednesday night Bible service. And, he is working on adapting the music at Masses so that it better reflects the parish's new makeup.
The current European worship style at St. Suzanne's has been the most difficult adjustment for the former Maranatha members, Jones said, because they had been accustomed to using contemporary music with the Catholic prayers and rituals. "The cultural adaptation is far more difficult than the theological adaptation," he said.
Jones said the four biggest problems Protestants have with Catholicism are teachings about Mary, purgatory, papal authority, and praying to saints. He resolved three of the four long ago, but struggled the most with Mary, finally accepting the teaching on her just because the church taught it.
"It is so ingrained in Protestants that only God inhabits heaven and to pray to anyone else is idolatry. ... The culture had so placed in my heart that only the Trinity received prayer that it was difficult."
He is writing a paper on the appropriateness of venerating Mary for a class at Detroit's Sacred Heart Seminary, where he is taking prerequisite courses for a master's degree in theology and pastoral studies. He also is writing a book for Ignatius Press and accepting speaking engagements through St. Joseph Communications, West Covina, Calif.
Jones, the father of three married sons and grandfather of six, is leaving the question of whether he becomes a priest up to the Church.
"If the Church discerns that vocation, I will accept it. If not, I will accept that, too. Whatever the Church calls me to do, I will do."
Although he has given up his job, prestige, and the congregation he built to become Catholic, Jones said the hardest loss of all has been the family and friends who rejected him because of his decision.
"To see those that have worshiped with and prayed with me for over 40 years walk away and have no contact with them is sad."
It was especially painful, he said, when his mother, who had helped him start Maranatha, left to go to Detroit's Perfecting Church, where his cousin, gospel singer Marvin Winans, is the pastor.
Neither Winans nor the pastor of the church that bought Maranatha's building would comment on Jones' conversion. Jones also is troubled that those he left behind do not understand his decision.
"To them, I have apostasized into error. And that's painful for me because we all want to be looked at as being right and correct, but now you have the stigma of being mentally unbalanced, changeable, being looked at as though you've just walked away from God."
Jones said when his group was considering converting, prayer groups were formed to stop them. "People fasted and prayed that God would stop us from making this terrible mistake. When we did it, it was as though we had died."
He said Catholics do not fully understand how many Protestants see their church. "There's this thin veneer of amicability, and below that there is great hostility."
But he remains convinced he is doing the right thing.
"How can you say no to truth? I knew that I would lose everything and that in those circles I would never be accepted again, but I had no choice," he said.
"It would be mortal sin for me to know what I know and not act on it. If I returned to my former life, I would be dishonest, untrustworthy, a man who saw truth, knew truth, and turned away from it, and I could just not do that."
"My Name Is Alex Jones" | Steve Ray | Foreword to No Price Too High: A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes a Catholic by Alex Jones (as told to Diane Hanson)
I will never forget the phone call that evening. The unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line said, "You don't know me, but my name is Alex Jones. Of all the men in all the world I need to talk to you."
I was a bit surprised and hesitatingly said, "All right, what can I do for you?"
Alex said, "You converted from Evangelical Protestantism to the Catholic Church, right?"
I said, "Yes I did. "
Then Alex quickly responded, "You are the only one I know of who has done thatso you will understand what I am going through, Can we talk?"
A few days later we met at a Big Boy Restaurant in Detroit. We had a delightful time, and I knew I had discovered a kindred spirit. I was impressed with Alex Jones the first time I laid eyes on him. He had a seriousness about him, but his soberness did not overshadow his sense of adventure and curiosity. I could see the intensity in his eyes, and as we began to talk I saw in him a rare honesty and depth. This was not a frivolous man. It was obvious that he had latched on to something and was not going to let it go.
It was the first of many lunches at Big Boy. We talked for almost three hours. I recounted my own conversion to the Catholic Church as I answered his rapid-fire questions. And they were not your average questions. Alex is a thinker, and he was thinking deeply. I still remember his eyes. They seemed to be dancing with the wonderment of a child, yet with the passion for truth of a sage. He was visibly excited, yet cautious and prudent. He wanted to know, but he was not reckless. He knew the Bible well and wanted everything to line up with the written Word of God. His eyes would darken and his eyebrows furl as he wrestled with new angles on the truth as they conflicted with old religious prejudices. I was watching a transformation take place right before my eyes.
The Lord had pulled back the curtain, and Alex had caught a glimpse of the early Church, and that short vision had set him on a quest. This quest was a dangerous thing for Alex to pursue since it could turn his life upside down and bring to a screeching halt the pastor's life he knew and loved. I warned him several times. "Alex," I said, "I want you to understand the full import of the questions you are asking, and the doors you are opening. It is the most exciting adventure you will ever embark upon, but at the same time, Alex, it can bring great pain and suffering. You stand to gain much, but you also could lose your family, your friends, your livelihood, and the Maranatha Church, which you have pastored all these years. You are at a fork in the road, Alex; move slowly and prayerfully."
We talked on the phone many times and continued our monthly lunches together. He was always bright-eyed and full of questions. After the first few meetings, I knew he had gone too far ever to turn back. He had discovered the Catholic Church, the best-kept secret in the world, and like the parable Jesus told of the priceless pearl, Alex was willing to give up everything to own the treasure for himself No price was too high for Alex once he glimpsed the eternal treasure.
A short time later, Alex invited my wife, Janet, and me to his home to meet his beautiful and intelligent wife, Donna. We were soon to find she also had a deep spirituality. She walked with Jesus as few people do, and she talked and lived as though she and Jesus were close friends. She was also, we discovered, not too fond of the Catholic Church or the direction her husband was taking. We tried to listen and share without pushing. Donna also had the eyes and manners of a person deeply concerned about truth and willing to take a stand for truth no matter what it cost her. And at this point she thought that truth was against the Catholic Church. But we loved her passion for truth and knew that if she continued to oppose the Church with honest questions, she would eventually see the fullness of the faith, and the Bible would open to her as never before.
My wife, Janet, took a liking to Donna. She prayed for her every day and kept in close contact. Had my wife been pushy with Donna it might have been the perfect excuse for Donna to bolt and run, but Janet was calm and patient. She knew that Donna was honest and that the truth would eventually dawn on Donna, and she wanted to be there to guide and coach her along the way.
I will never forget one day when I was reading my e-mails: I called Janet to come quickly. With smiles of joy and tears in our eyes, we read the words from Alex: "Donna wants me to tell you she is Catholic." Donna probably expected that we wouldn't believe it, but we did. Even though her conversion had taken a different course and time frame than Alex', we had seen the transformation coming. In conversations, we had seen the same "dangerous" wonderment and curiosity in her eyesat least dangerous for one who wanted to withstand the Catholic Church. We had known it was just a matter of time. We rejoiced at the words we read in that e-mail. Janet called Donna to congratulate her.
The rest is a matter of history and is well told in the two stories you are about to read in this book. The reader is fortunate to have two heartfelt stories in one. They are very different stories, yet they dovetail so beautifully. God is a master craftsman, and you will see his skill as he worked in this family, knitting two souls together as they traversed the dangerous and unknown paths. God shone his light on their paths, not far into the future, but only the light they needed for each step. Even if God had given them a glimpse of their lives together as Catholics now, they wouldn't have believed it.
We were very emotional at the Easter Vigil Of 200 1. A significant number of members of an African-American Pentecostal congregationfifty-four persons in all (including two who entered later on Easter Sunday)being received into the Catholic Church was not an everyday occurrence. Janet was Donna's sponsor, and I kept my camera flashing. It was joyful and moving. We had grown to love Alex and Donna dearly. To see them enraptured before the altar brought tears to our eyes and the eyes of many others. This was the end of a long journey for them. It had been a journey fraught with pain, loss, suffering, and betrayal. But it had also been a frolicking adventure filled with excitement, the joy of discovery, the making of new friends, and joining in the sumptuous feast of the Church. The journey had been bittersweet. But now on that eventful evening, one journey ended and another began.
Looking back on the whole process, we again marvel at the hand of God working in two wonderful souls. We are filled with joy at the blessings God has poured on them and their family since they set their faces like flint to follow God's lead no matter what the cost. We also marvel in the great blessing these two have been to the Church world wide. They are opening doors for many folks who would have never been open to the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church. With great pleasure, I watch as Alex preaches to large crowds who are deeply moved by his story and wisdom. I join them as they laugh and cry and are moved to deeper commitment and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
You are about to embark on a great journey. You are about to share their joys and sorrows. Alex and Donna have opened their souls to us and have invited us to share their intellectual, personal, cultural, religious, emotional, and theological struggles. You will be blessed and encouraged. You will be challenged and edified. You will thank God for this brother and sister in the Lord.
Author of Crossing the Tiber
“Jones first heard Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers, at a debate on whether the origins of the Christian church were Protestant or Catholic.”
Ummm neither... Stupid premise. Jesus was neither Catholic nor Protestant.
Jesus was a Jew. He established one church - the Catholic Church. Only the Catholic Church can trace its heritage all the way back to its founder, Jesus Christ.
Thanks nice post. I wish they repeat this since I won’t be home this evening to watch it.
You wrote: Only the Catholic Church can trace its heritage all the way back to its founder, Jesus Christ.
Really? Please elaborate.
The problem with the general Protestant view is that they posit that the Apostles had everything right, then at some point (usually having to do with the Emperor Constantine) everything changed and became wrong, then over a thousand years later a group of Europeans suddenly realized that it was all wrong and fixed it.
Aside from the fact that history doesn't work like that, the written record contradicts that view.
Hard to fault that logic.
Now they're following me.
I saw a clip of this guy. He looks talks just like a pentecostal, pacing around the stage like it's all about him. I guess you can take the preacher out of pentecostalism but...
entirely understandable to bump into things when you walk in darkness.
Ridiculous... Jesus laughed at the Sadducee s and Pharisees. He will laugh at the Catholic Church for making such pompous claims. Jesus was interested in what was going on inside the hearts of individuals. He didn’t give a fig for religious power structures. Yes churches are integral to Gods plan on earth. But as soon as a church believes that it is the ONLY path to Christian salvation it becomes silly. The Catholic church is not infallible and has had plenty of weird changes in doctrine over the centuries. Your precious and infallible Pope as reported civic news “In 2006, he prayed toward Mecca with Muslims, betraying his belief that Muslims and Catholics pray to the same God. “ So your church is like any other church. Populated by fallible men.
“The problem with the general Protestant view is that they posit that the Apostles had everything right, then at some point (usually having to do with the Emperor Constantine) everything changed and became wrong, then over a thousand years later a group of Europeans suddenly realized that it was all wrong and fixed it.”
That’s not my protestant view. My view is that men create organizations were process becomes more important than results. Most any organizations that is around to long becomes moribund and rotten. Organizations of men must be periodically purged and destroyed in order to renew. The Catholic church is an irrelevant extinct pterodactyl masquerading as an eagle. Jesus was not about the Catholic Church and the Pope. Jesus was not about a nice building full of pews. The Church is bigger than all that.
It’s funny to even imagine a pentecostal preacher concerned with theology... Very amusing.
There are a lot of people running around in those circles who smart, in addition to being charismatic. Well, as smart as one can be with his mind closed to half the truth.
Literal interpretation of Scripture is highly selective.
But irrelevant? Extinct? There are more Catholics than any other Christian denomination, more than all Protestant denominations put together.
The many Pentecostal preacher and lay people that I’ve known are experientialy oriented and don’t like to read much of the core theology curriculum. That’s also why they are as a church not very well anchored to anything. They just blow with the wind. The Catholic Church would rightly point this out as an example of why you need a large hierarchical church to keep the faith anchored. I see some merit in the concept, but I think that Paul left us plenty of doctrine if one is willing to read it.
Oh, good. I’ll look forward to reading this, and maybe even catch the show on the video archive. I confess I’ve been too cheap to buy the book ;-(.
I suppose. Handy to have a lamp on your path, maybe a light at your feet. Then you don't 'bump into things' like he did.