Evangelical Convert

Adam Crawford

A lifelong Protestant, Adam came home to the Catholic Church when he was 39 years old. He currently lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California with his wife of 20 years Missy, and their three boys. Adam also blogs at his site, A Faith-Full Life.

Your Starting Point Doesn’t Always Determine Your Conclusion…

Part One - Context

A pastor friend who had heard of my conversion to Catholicism cautioned me that, “Your starting point always determines your conclusion.” Often this is a maxim that I would wholeheartedly agree with. I too have recognized that frequently a faulty conclusion is indeed the result of an erroneous starting point. This certainly seems to be a maxim that can be applied to many endeavors involving human reason and logic – endeavors such as science, mathematics, philosophy, and theology. And yet, while this maxim seems to generally hold true, there are exceptions to the rule. In science for instance, one starts with a hypothesis (starting point) which often must be abandoned during the course of research, since your research may lead you to a very different conclusion indeed. In theology and religion, these exceptions to the rule are most often referred to as conversions – i.e. people whose starting point (like Saul of Tarsus) very much does not determine their conclusion!

Having said that, I wanted to start by providing a bit of context for my conversion story. I was extremely fortunate to be raised in a Christian home by parents who did an excellent job of acquainting me with the Holy Scriptures. Our Christian faith was a very central part of our life and identity as a family. Within our faith, I was exposed to both ends of the spectrum so to speak, both to legalistic and fundamentalist churches that were very dogmatic and certain about everything, and also to more “regular” denominations that were very certain about some things (the necessity of speaking in tongues) but not so certain about others (predestination vs. free will). Over the years, we attended various denominational and non-denominational churches, but they were all characterized by the idea that the bible alone was our only basis for truth, faith, morals, and authority. Many of these churches also tended to interpret Scripture in very literal terms.

Nevertheless, I frequently found myself at odds with the accepted theological beliefs of our Christian friends, many of whom could probably be best described as Evangelical Fundamentalists. As a result, I frequently felt that my own views bordered on the “unorthodox”, leading me to feel that I struggled with issues of faith more than most. In particular, starting when I was about seventeen, I really began to struggle with the idea of the Bible alone. I couldn’t seem to get a good answer as to where this idea had come from or more importantly where the Bible asserted this doctrine. I found myself at odds with the doctrine of sola Scriptura for primarily logical reasons. If it is, “the Bible and the Bible alone” then where does the Bible make this claim? If anything when I studied the Bible I found that it seemed to argue against this idea as it was full of times when God spoke both through direct revelation, and also times when He spoke through others (prophets, priests, judges, kings, etc.) to His people. In Scripture I saw that God revealed Himself through His creation, through His incarnate Son who dwelt among us, through the disciples who, “handed on … what [they] had in turn received:1” (oral tradition), through His Church, etc. Obviously this revelation was inscripturated and preserved for those of us who came later, and Scripture is indeed God’s revelation to us, but this was never the primary means by which God choose to reveal Himself. In other words, He didn’t, with the notable exception of the Ten Commandments, choose to simply drop a written users manual from heaven in order to communicate with us – and even that didn’t end up working so well!

I also encountered many of the problems that come along with a very literalistic interpretation of Scripture. For example, most of the churches we attended failed to take into account the fact that the Bible is ancient Near Eastern literature and comprises a wide variety of literary types. Many pastors also forgot that the author may have intended a meaning that has nothing to do with our modern context. Additionally, I struggled with the ideas of faith alone, faith as somehow opposed to science, and especially the lack of agreement over countless different doctrines. Everyone seemed to understand Scripture in a different way, and it profoundly disturbed me that there seemed to be no way to know with any certainty what the bible meant about anything. The only “solution” proposed for this problem was to learn to accept it. To me this was no solution, and left only a gnawing frustration. The Bible was asserted to be our only guide for all matters of faith and morals, and yet no one agreed on what it meant, and no one else seemed to find this particularly problematic. I wouldn’t have categorized any of these issues as being fundamentally Protestant versus Catholic at that point, as I honestly had very little notion of what Catholics believed. I have since discovered that almost all of what I thought I knew of Catholicism was either flat out wrong, or very misleading.

I should clarify that I bear no ill will towards any of those churches or their people; on the contrary, many of my closest friends, people who are unquestionably fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, are still Protestant. Having said that, I always felt that I stood very much at the fringe in these communities with questions that no one had good answers for. Since I didn’t have any frame of reference at that point to categorize any of these issues as Protestant vs. Catholic, I wound up thinking that these were issues that I had with Christianity in general - issues that most other Christians didn’t share. I felt that my faith was lacking and my views were “unorthodox” Christian views without realizing that they were probably more accurately unorthodox Protestant views. As it turns out, many of my views are entirely orthodox from a Catholic perspective!

When I was nineteen I went to bible college for a year at Western Baptist College in Salem (now Corbin College) with my fiancé, where I majored in youth ministry. The next year we were married, and I quit bible school to work to pay off the bills we had accrued after one year of private Christian college – around $40k for the both of us – and that was 20 years ago! I continued to pursue my theological study on my own, going through countless Protestant theology books and slowly trying to piece together my “own” beliefs out of all the competing theories. I did a lot of study through my early adulthood and was very confident when it came to the claims of Christ, but on countless other issues I kept ending up with different conclusions than everyone else when it came to our faith. I would sit very quietly any time creationism came up for instance because I had views which, from a fundamentalist mindset, would potentially call into question my very salvation. I also found that I had a much greater respect for communion than many of the Christians I worshipped with; for them communion was merely symbolic, and often times entirely optional or only partaken of very erratically. The more I studied Scripture, especially the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, the more I was convinced that there was something more going on - something that wasn’t merely symbolic.

And, increasingly I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with the implications of Scripture as the only measuring stick that we used. Scripture was used to justify everything in peoples lives from their unwise life decisions regarding jobs and finances, to their multiple divorces and remarriages, or even their homosexuality. I’m not saying that we don’t all make mistakes and bad choices, I was just bothered when God and the Bible got blamed for all of them. I also noticed that even when Scripture was interpreted by those who were honestly trying to follow God and to submit to Scripture’s authority in their lives, they invariably arrived at very different conclusions from one another. In other words far from Scripture being the “final authority” it really just opened the floodgates for division and a lack of certainty within the church.

This division within the church – especially when it came to our inability to even agree on what constituted salvation, has always bothered me tremendously. Gradually, I gravitated more and more towards “Bible churches” like Calvary Chapel, and non-denominational churches that refused to take a stand on anything that could be considered remotely divisive, but fundamentally sought to bring people into a personal relationship with Christ. This could be both good (less divisiveness), and bad (a lessened ability to proclaim truth). They basically taught a “relationship with Christ” as the penultimate truth – the only truth which really mattered (No Creed but Christ). Many of the “Bible churches” and non-denominational churches could probably be best summed up by the statement, “Just me, my bible, and Jesus.”

This resulted in churches that were very uncertain about almost everything doctrinally. Churches where no one could say for sure that this is what the Scriptures mean when they said ___________. Churches that tended to start with the assumption that as mere men it was presumptuous for us to think that we as finite beings could be “certain” about the Infinite. And, there is an element of truth to this. God is Infinite and Uncreated, Triune in nature, too Numinous, too Holy, and beyond our comprehension. But ultimately this overall lack of certainty on much of the Protestant side results in the statement, “We can’t really know for sure” or perhaps, “We can’t agree with any degree of certainty on what ought to be sure.” And I was told that we had to be okay with that, because that is the way things are. In fact, those who were most certain about any given doctrine were looked down on as being arrogant and legalists – which often times they were!

Through the years that followed, it seems as if I was always involved in ministry of one kind or another, and as I said, I really enjoyed studying theology and especially teaching others. We moved to Boise, Idaho when I was around thirty, and got involved with a small non-denominational church in Kuna, Idaho called New Beginnings. Our time at New Beginnings was wonderful! Where previously my learning and growth had always been largely up to my own studies and discipline (or lack thereof) I now found myself in a community of believers where I was actually being taught and challenged by others. Many of those in leadership were involved in some manner with Boise Bible College, and one of the founding pastors was a professor there. During our time there, I had the opportunity to take un-accredited classes through Boise Bible college for around two and a half years and I was asked to move into a ministerial role serving as one of the pastors at the church. Feeling led by God to move towards ministry as a full time vocation, I even applied and was accepted into a Masters of Divinity Program through Fuller Seminary. Due to my previous individual studies and my ministerial experience they were willing to make a special provision for me in spite of the fact that I hadn’t completed an undergraduate degree. I was definitely moving along in a certain direction, and for me that direction did not include the Catholic Church!

Part Two - Catholicism and the Reformation

Before moving on I should note that I’ve always been fairly anti-Catholic. Growing up I was raised in a context that was dubious about whether or not Catholics were even saved, and I was even exposed to the occasional fundamentalist who was convinced that the Catholic Church was the beast of Revelation and the Pope was the anti-Christ! If you had suggested to me a few years ago that I would ever be considering a conversion to Catholicism I would have literally laughed in your face. I had not the faintest inkling that the Catholic Church was even a remote consideration. I would have thought it about as likely that I would convert to Islam or Judaism. If asked, I would have probably allowed that there were “real” Christians in the Catholic Church, but probably more at a uninformed lay level, i.e. the people of “simple faith in Christ” who were being led astray by those higher-ups within the Catholic hierarchy.

There was, however, a gradual softening in my attitudes to towards Catholicism over the years. Even as early as junior high I had talked with a gymnastics coach of mine who was a strong Catholic and asked him about prayers offered to Mary and the saints. I was surprised, even at twelve, to find a very reasonable answer given and one I couldn’t easily refute. From that point on prayer to the saints wasn’t something which I personally practiced, but I had begun to understand it and no longer viewed it as “wrong.” Additionally, I had believers in my life who began to expose me to the writings of people like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton, and others. I began to realize that some of the authors whom I most admired and who had influenced me the most were either Catholics themselves, or very Catholic in their theology like C.S. Lewis who was a member of the Anglican Church.

As I began to read these Catholic authors, theologians, and philosophers, I discovered that not only were they “Christian” (to my great surprise!) but in many cases profoundly so. They were, in fact, some of the most deeply committed Christians, insightful theologians, and brilliant philosophers I had yet been exposed to. This didn’t change my mind on Catholicism, but it definitely began to soften my previously superior attitude. This exposure in fact softened my anti-Catholic views to the point where I began to suspect the reverse of my earlier position. Namely, that at the “higher levels” of Catholicism there were perhaps some of the very best Christian theologians, apologists, and philosophers. I continued to feel however, that large portions of the Catholic laity didn’t necessarily share this deeper understanding of Christianity. This is sadly probably the case with not just the Catholic Church, but most of church-going Christians in general. As I continued to study Catholicism with a progressively more open attitude I was very surprised to find that much of what I thought I knew about Catholic belief was either flat out wrong, didn’t do justice to the nuances of the position, or was based on “straw-man” arguments. I also discovered that many of the authors I had been reading were converts to the faith. Men like G.K. Chesterton, Peter Kreeft, and Cardinal John Henry Newman who once famously said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” While I am not sure that this is a maxim that would apply to everyone, it was certainly true in my case.

I decided to teach a Church history class at the church I was pastoring at. I wanted to teach it at a collegiate level, and to try and cover a period of time from Christ thru the present in about sixteen weeks of one hour classes plus homework for the students. I wanted to tie each portion of Church history to a particular Christian of that period who had really made a difference in the life of the church. My goal was to give attendees some familiarity with the heroes of the faith since the time of Christ – to provide positive role models who would hopefully inspire our congregation to live lives of heroic virtue themselves. I didn’t think of these “heroes” as saints, nor did I realize that this idea, this communion of saints, was a deeply Catholic one. It was an ambitious undertaking, especially for me as I had never really studied Church history in any sort of intensive way. All of my studies of Church history up to that point had either been broad overviews, or very thorough studies of particular aspects of Church history such as the Reformation, or the early American Revivals. Like most Protestants, for me Church history began in Acts and then in some vague and indefinite way “veered off course” around the time of Constantine. Then there were even vaguer interludes of crusades and inquisitions, with Church history thankfully resuming some 1500 years after Christ with the Protestant Reformation. I had, of course, been acquainted with snippets of Augustine and Aquinas, but had never really understood them to be Catholic. I spent countless hours preparing to teach my class and reading multiple Protestant books on the history of the church. As I studied, for the first time it came home to me that, for the first 1,500 years of Christianity – for fully three quarters of all Christian history – to be Christian was to be Catholic.

All the early church fathers, saints, theologians, etc. were Catholic. There was no other expression of the church until the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. I know that it’s kind of dumb, but this floored me. I had never taken the time to consider it from an intellectual perspective before. From the time of Christ until some 400 years ago there was no question as to whether Catholic theology, teaching, and practice were an authentic expression of Christianity – they were the only expression of Christianity which existed. I shouldn’t say no question, because there have always been heretics and dissenters to the true faith, but heresies aside, the Church was one, holy, apostolic and Catholic until very recently in her history. I will readily admit that reform was needed within the Catholic Church during the time of the Protestant Reformation; but in reality the Church is always and in every age in need of reform because she is composed of sinners such as myself. It is a historical fact, however, that Luther didn’t intend to leave the Catholic church but to reform it. Furthermore, his excommunication from the Catholic Church was for his heresy - not his efforts at reformation. Consider the following quote from Luther himself:

That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St, Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united.2

And this is precisely where I began to have my own problems, because when I began to take a hard look at the five solae of the Protestant Reformation - the reasons which the Protestants gave for leaving the Catholic Church - I found that I disagreed with most of them.

I’ve already covered some of my objections to sola Scriptura, but as a side note, it seems telling that even the fathers of the Reformation who believed in a doctrine of Scripture alone still felt it necessary to write extensively on how to properly interpret Scripture so as to arrive at the same conclusions that they did. For instance, have you ever tried to get through all of Calvin’s institutes?! It was around this time that I came across an interesting quote from the Orthodox Church in America.

“…the Orthodox Church does not accept the notion that everyone can properly interpret the Bible as he or she wants. Some Protestant bodies believe in this, but Orthodoxy does not. We say that the Church has the ability to properly interpret Scripture, and this means that we should study and adopt the interpretations that have been handed down over the 2000 years of the Church’s living history. Given the fact that that which is contained in Scripture is the inspired word of God, revealed to mankind and not to a single individual, no individual has the right or ability to offer ‘the’ definitive interpretation of Scripture.3

I also took issue with Luther’s teachings on sola fide – by faith alone. Justification by faith alone without the necessity of good works seems to contradict the vast majority of Scriptural teaching on the subject. This contradiction between Luther’s theology and Scriptural teaching was emphasized by Luther’s addition of the word “alone” to St. Paul’s declaration in Romans 3:28 that it is by faith that we are justified, and his desire to entirely remove the book of James (which he labeled an Epistle of straw) due to it’s assertion that faith without works is dead. This seemed to be a very inconsistent position for someone who had just affirmed the sufficiency and authority of Scripture alone for all matters of faith and morals!

My problems continued with the doctrine of sola gratia or “grace alone.” Contrary to Catholic teaching that man can cooperate with the graces given him by God, and that works done in Christ can have value; Luther taught that man cannot by any action of his own, even acting under the influence of grace, cooperate with God’s grace in order to “merit” greater graces for himself or others. In Luther’s view, even as Christians our works have no value and are, “as filthy rags.” Since even the good works done in Christ have no value we must rely on God’s grace alone. But this creates serious problems when you consider the inverse of this doctrine; namely that our lack of good works and our sin will also not in any way adversely affect our relationship with God or our salvation.

Consider the following quote from Martin Luther, “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.4This however stands in stark contrast to St. Paul who writes, “Should we go on sinning that grace may abound? May it never be!5 and, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No sexually immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.6 I also have lesser issues with the two remaining solae which I won’t waste time on here.

I’ve spoken to many Protestant friends who have agreed with me on various aspects of my objections to the five solae, but then say that those aren’t the reasons why they reject Catholicism. They have their own reasons! Maybe they reject Catholicism because of its teaching of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist – but Luther and Calvin still believed in this after their split from the Catholic Church. In fact this doctrine was the reason for the first of the divisions which have plagued the Protestant movement for the last 500 years, this one occurring between Luther and Zwingli. Or perhaps they have issues with Catholicism due to the veneration of Mary and the saints, but Luther himself continued to highly venerate Mary saying among other things,“[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough.7 John Calvin said, “It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor.” and Zwingli said, “I esteem immensely the Mother of God” and “The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow.”

Often my Protestant friends don’t realize how many “Catholic” beliefs and practices were held by the fathers of the Reformation. Not because they were Catholic beliefs, but rather because they were the historic, orthodox, and Scriptural positions of Christians from the time of Christ forward! For instance, they often don’t realize that the fathers of the Reformation believed in the necessity of baptism for salvation, that they practiced infant baptism, and that they taught that there was no salvation outside of the Church. Granted, they took that doctrine to mean their church rather than the Catholic Church as we see in Calvin’s remarks, “Herman has, if I am not mistaken, in good faith returned to the fellowship of the Church. He has confessed that outside the Church there is no salvation, and that the true Church is with us. Therefore, it was defection when he belonged to a sect separated from it.8 Nevertheless, this was the historic Christian position – not just of the Catholic Church but also of the fathers of the Reformation.

The bottom line was the more I looked at it, the more it seemed as if, The objections to Catholicism that the Reformers initially held weren’t objections that I shared, and the objections that my friends held weren’t objections that the early Reformers shared!

This led me to begin to study what the early Church actually believed when it came to Sacred Tradition, confession, the Eucharist, the communion of the saints, and other “Catholic” positions. To my shock I found that virtually all Catholic doctrine found its roots in the teachings of the early Church – and almost all of it is attested to within the first two hundred years after Christ! There has obviously been an ongoing process of defining doctrine along with the refinement and development of that doctrine, but I was shocked at just how many “Catholic” doctrines were actually early Church doctrines. {As a side note, I highly recommend Jimmy Akin’s book The Fathers Know Best which arranges more than 900 quotes from the early Church Fathers by topic.} This destroyed my previous assumption that somehow around the time of Constantine or shortly thereafter, the church was led into error, probably largely due to Roman influence, and that human reason and meaningless church tradition gradually replaced the true authority of the Scriptures. Instead, I was forced to ask the question, “If the early Church was wrong – was she wrong from the very start? If not, why have we dispensed with so much of what the early Church believed, practiced, and taught based on the say so of Martin Luther and other Protestant Reformers?” This is still following the tradition of men – just men of much more recent descent.

And that is fundamentally my problem. There are logical inconsistencies with the argument on the Protestant side that I just can’t seem to resolve. You have men arguing against the authority of the Catholic Church and for the authority of Scripture alone, but ultimately all they are saying is that they have the right to authoritative interpretation and the Church doesn’t. This requires us to believe that God didn’t work through His Church to teach right doctrine and properly interpret Scripture, but instead we must believe that God has worked through Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other “Reformers” to teach right doctrine and properly interpret scripture. Protestants assert that the Reformation was divinely ordered and necessitated a split from the Church which Christ founded, but most of them don’t even agree with the theology or doctrines of the original Reformers. And, in the end, I just couldn’t seem to find a logically consistent argument for the split from the historic Catholic Church.

Part Three - Conversion

Even though I was raised being told that we couldn’t be certain about a great many things, I was also raised to believe that truth was absolute. If that seems like somewhat of a contradiction - well, it seemed that way to me as well. The absolute nature of truth comes from the premise that truth conforms to a fundamental reality of which God is the foundation. If truth conforms to reality at a fundamental level, then by definition it is both certain and absolute. That means that truth isn’t relative in spite of the morally (and now religiously) relative society that we live in, because truth by its very nature excludes. Not in a negative sense, but in the sense that two diametrically opposed things can’t both be true at the same time. Sometimes, people will object asking whether mere men can even apprehend the truth. While it should be admitted that just because absolute truth exists, this doesn’t mean that it can be apprehended with certainty. But, I would point out that this is the same slippery slope which leads to agnosticism. The agnostic position is primarily the acknowledgement that God may exist, but that we can’t know for sure – i.e. that we can’t have certainty. For me, introducing divine revelation into the equation really helps to answer the question of whether we can know and apprehend truth.

This lack of certainty has always bothered me intellectually, but it began to bother me in increasingly more pragmatic ways as well. As a young man, my father had the unfortunate job of trying to answer all my questions about sexuality. Incidentally he did a very admirable job – he would schedule entire weekend get-aways with each of his kids out in a cabin in the woods just in order to “have the talk.” Certain things were very clear – no sex outside of marriage. Other things were much less clear. Is masturbation right or wrong? My dad explained that he was raised having been taught that masturbation was a sin. However, James Dobson, an Evangelical Christian psychologist said that masturbation was natural and not a sin. Who was right? He wasn’t sure, and so he couldn’t present me with a certain answer. These same issues plagued me many years later when I became a father and began to have “the talk” with my boys. I found myself struggling with the same questions that my father had, namely, “What do I tell them?” Lengthy conversations with bible college professors and friends who were pastors, led in turn to lengthy conversations with my sons which amounted to reservations, warnings, cautions, and a whole lot of “I don’t know”. Probably better if you try not to; but it’s only natural. I don’t want you to feel guilty, but you really have to watch out for lust. On the other hand, I’d rather have you manage your lust in that way than actually have sex outside of marriage…

This lack of certainty began to bother me even more profoundly when I became a pastor. To have others ask me questions and to only be able to give them multiple options to choose from while pointing out the pros and cons of each position was incredibly frustrating. To have to say, “We can’t really know for sure…” and to find it as deeply unsatisfying as they did even as I tried to convince them that, “that’s just the way things are” was for me completely unacceptable. It felt wrong. It felt untrue. I was not sure that I was willing to accept the premise that we can’t be certain. That it was somehow “wrong” or simplistic and naive to desire certainty.

To me this issue of truth and certainty seems to be a fundamental difference between the Protestant and the Catholic. Within my Protestant upbringing there was no “certainty” on what constitutes and is necessary for salvation. Whether salvation can be lost. Whether baptism is necessary. Whether baptism and communion are Sacramental. Whether or not Sacraments exist at all. Whether works are necessary in addition to faith, and the list goes on and on. And I found it unacceptable to be unable to answer our congregation with any degree of certainty on not just these basic issues of faith, but also questions of morality as well. Is masturbation wrong? Is birth control wrong? Is divorce and remarriage okay? What about homosexuality? For me, the answer cannot be, “I don’t know” or, “well, let me tell you what I think…” This is unacceptable to me as both a father and as one who was shepherding God’s people.

So, do I believe that we can know everything with certainty? Not remotely. Do I believe that we should be able to articulate what is necessary for salvation and to live a life which is pleasing to God? I do. Do I believe that we should be able to declare with all Christians everywhere the historic Creeds of Christendom, confident that they are true and certain summaries of our faith? I do.

We had moved to Northern California and I had taken a new job – largely so that I could begin to work on my Mdiv at Fuller’s Sacramento campus, and all of a sudden I found myself at the proverbial crossroads of life. I had taken a step of faith and moved with my family so that I could get my degree and pursue full-time vocational ministry, and now I was seriously considering not only the claims of the Catholic Church, but also what claims that Church may have on my life. I found myself reflecting on a passage from Saint Mark’s Gospel where Christ commands the disciples to go before Him by boat to Bethsaida. They obey but are forced to fight the wind and the waves all night long before Christ comes to them around 3am walking on the water. He comforts them, calms the wind and the waves, and they proceed together to the other side of the lake where they come to land at Gennesarat9. Did you catch that? He tells them to go to a certain place, allows them to struggle all night to try and get to where He directed them to go, and then comes to them and brings them somewhere else entirely. No comment is made, no explanation is given.

Looking back, I feel very certain that I was following the leading of Christ when I applied to seminary and moved my family to California. He just hadn’t told me yet where He was truly leading me and why.

Coming to the point of actual conversion (for lack of a better word) was unbelievably difficult. Not because of doubts – for the first time in my life I was receiving answers to my previously unanswerable questions! The difficulty was instead in accepting the words of Christ who said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.10 The difficulty was in forsaking friends and family and church for the sake of Christ. Of letting go of my plans and dreams and desires and giving them to Jesus. Of trusting Him to lead me even when I didn’t know where my final destination would be, or why the journey there had become so difficult.

Throughout this process, our friends and family were incredibly gracious, but they were also very concerned for our wellbeing. They were much like I was before I began to truly study Catholic teaching; they had many misunderstandings about Catholicism, and many wrong notions. As I have remarked on my homepage, “It is often difficult to describe to others all the individual steps taken along the path which have brought you along the way to where you are today. Many have perhaps misunderstood my decision as a leaving behind of one thing for something else, when in reality the experience has been one of adding to, not of taking away – of entering into the fullness of the Christian Faith. There have been many who have asked me why I felt that it was necessary to enter into the Catholic Church; and I cannot find a more perfect answer than that of G.K. Chesterton who wrote that, “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” I would add that for me, there was also the indescribable joy of finding my home – of coming home to the place where I belong.”

For me the process was one of intensive study for almost two years before I finally told my wife that I needed to begin attending Mass and exploring for myself the claims of the Catholic Church. I promised her that I would continue to go to church with her and the kids, but that I could no longer resist God’s pull in my life towards Catholicism. When I said that, I honestly didn’t know if she would agree to attend Mass with me or not! But she was willing to go for my sake, and for six months we attended a local non-denominational church in the morning and St. Teresa of Avila’s parish in the evening as a family. My kids really got a lot of church during that time! Missy and I both agreed that we would enroll in RCIA classes (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), and nine months later we were received together into the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil of 2013. I can honestly say that that Easter Vigil service was one of the most profound and joyful experiences of my life!

All of this isn’t to say that I no longer have any questions at all or that I am under some delusion as to the Catholic Church being perfect. She has obviously had her share of failings and problems over the years and will continue to do so, maybe even more so now that I am a member! There have been priests who were dismal failures, bishops and Popes who were motivated by greed, selfishness, and a desire for power rather than love. The Church has done things both amazing and horrific in the name of God. But…she is Christ’s bride, made holy and without blemish by Christ Himself and by the righteous deeds of His saints11. And like all brides, she has been joined to Him that the two may become one flesh. And it is through this incarnational mystery that we, the bride of Christ, become in that marital union of one flesh, the very body of Christ, with He Himself as our head12.

You see, for me, the balance has shifted to the point where I can no longer in good conscience consider myself Protestant. As I pointed out in my post Sola Scriptura ~ An Anachronism:

“I have a sizable problem with any theory that proposes itself in contradiction to the words of Christ who said, “And I tell you,…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.13Every Christian denomination which has since split from that Church, has essentially proposed some variation of the theory above. Namely that Christ was wrong; His Church was not preserved by Him, the gates of Hell did prevail against it, and it has now become necessary to split from the Church which He founded and start an entirely new church in order to return to the original teachings of Christ…”

I have come to the conviction that it was indeed Christ who founded His Church - not Luther, or Calvin, or Zwingli, or the King of England, or John and Charles Wesley, or Joseph Smith, or Chuck Smith, or anyone else since that time. I have decided to trust in the plain words of Christ preserved in the Scriptures for us. I have, as a matter of fact, decided that when He guaranteed His Church that He would be with her always – even to the very end of the age; and that when He promised her that He would preserve her against the very gates of Hell14 - He meant it. I have decided that if I am to be His disciple then I should begin with obedience, and in obedience, belong to the Church that He established. And finally, I have decided that Christ is not into polygamy – He desires only one bride.

I will leave you with the words of G.K. Chesterton who wrote, “It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair.”

Adam works for Permobil and TiLite providing custom complex power and manual wheelchairs for individuals with disabilities. He and his family are active members of St. Teresa of Avila’s Parish in Auburn, CA. He also enjoys blogging at his siteA Faith-Full Life.

Adam Crawford Recommended Reading:

  • The Fathers Know Best - Jimmy Akin
  • Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic - Patrick Madrid

  • The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth - Scott Hahn

Adam Crawford Recommended CD’s:

  • The Lord’s Supper - John Michael Talbot
  • All The People Said Amen - Matt Maher

1“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

2 Martin Luther – An Instruction on Certain Articles: Late February 1519

3 Orthodox Church in America Website

4 A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521, From the Wartburg (Segment) Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores from: Dr. Martin Luther’s Saemmtliche Schriften Dr, Johannes Georg Walch, Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15,cols. 2585-2590.

5 Romans 6:1-2

6 Ephesians 5:3-6

7 Martin Luther – Sermon, Christmas, 1531

8 John Calvin – Letters of John Calvin, trans. M. Gilchrist, ed. J.Bonnet, New Y­ork: Burt Franklin, 1972,

I: 110-111.

9 Mark 6:45-53

10 Matthew 10:34-39

11 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27, “…and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure” - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Revelation 19:7-9

12 “He is the head of the body, the church;” Colossians 1:18a, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” 24, “These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” 2:17-19

13 Matthew 16:18

14 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

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Methodist Convert

Elliott Suttle

Elliott came to the Catholic Church from an apathetic atheism after having been raised in the Methodist church. He currently resides in rural Japan where he teaches English and occasionally blogs about his faith and racing.

From Methodism to Apathy/Atheism and on to Rome

It can be very interesting the paths that God chooses for our lives. While I am generally content to keep the details of stories like this to myself, I’ve felt that it would be helpful to put this on paper. Perhaps it is His will that I relate my journey in order that others may benefit by it. I truly don’t know at this point in time. Perhaps God will reveal to me the reason at some point in the future.

Most of the salient points of the story begin sometime around the Easter season of 2005. In order for the story to have its full effect, however, it is necessary that we go back several years and see the events that lead up to this time. Unfortunately, I’m not certain exactly where to begin. Perhaps this journey began as early as 1992 when I first left for college. In truth, it began well before I was born, but this isn’t an autobiography.

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina to parents who made sure we attended church every weekend, although it was never really something we discussed outside of Sunday morning. Mom had been raised a Presbyterian and Dad a Baptist, so when they married they decided that they would compromise and attend a Methodist church. With the occasional exception, that's the church and theology with which I grew up. Given that we lived in a small town in the South, the Catholic Church was a total non-factor. Unlike many Churches that you may have heard about in the South, there wasn’t the anti-Catholic indoctrination that many grow up with. When I say it was a non-factor, I mean exactly that. I don’t think I had ever even heard of the Catholic Church. When I finally did encounter it, there was still no mention of how it differed. For all I knew, it was exactly like any other denomination. There was exactly one parish in our town, but it was just never mentioned. It wasn't until around middle school that I met a Catholic family for the first time. They were from Maine and had moved in down the road from us. I remember going to Mass with them at some point, but the only thing I really remember about it at this point is that we knelt during Mass. I believe the parish had a communion rail, but I could be mistaken on that point.

For some reason, even at this young age, it seemed wrong to me for two pastors to preach different meanings for the same scripture passage. If we were all part of the same faith, shouldn't the teachings be the same? It also seemed to me that faith should be more than a Sunday morning activity as it seemed to be in our lives.

Anyway, my middle school years were a very bad time for me. At one particular point my friends left me and began to torment me. I had absolutely no friends left, and was a very angry and depressed child. Mom sent me to the pastor for counseling, but I don't recall it doing much good. I only mention this because I also attended school and church with these “friends.” We were going through confirmation classes at the time, and while confirmation meant the world to me, I couldn't stand to be there because of the people with whom I was forced to attend. The part that I still remember to this day is when they began to teach us about church history. They told us that the Methodist church had broken away from the Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation. To my mind, it didn't make sense to split the Church like that, but because of my situation I didn't dare ask questions about it.

Outside of the people with whom I had to attend, I really did enjoy going to Church. In particular, I was looking forward to my confirmation. My grandfather gave me the Bible that he had been given at his confirmation, and there was really nothing more important to me at that point in time than being there for my confirmation. I woke up on Sunday for confirmation with a stomach virus of some kind. I was far too sick to attend, and my parents told me as much. This was my confirmation, however, and I wasn’t going to miss is it just because I wasn’t feeling particularly well. They finally relented and let go. I somehow managed to get through most of the service just fine, but it didn’t last. Just after being called up to the front for the confirmation portion of the service, the stomach virus caught up with me. I was forced to run to the bathroom in the middle of the ceremony to avoid leaving whatever was left in my stomach all over the minister. I only relate this story because it serves as a great example of what the faith meant to me during this portion of my life. Also, it stands in stark contrast to where I would be after high school.

During high school we moved from North Carolina to California due to my father’s work. I was very fortunate that the Methodist Church we began attending in California had an excellent youth group. Virtually every month we went to youth group conferences, and at one point we ran a summer camp for kids in Alaska. I was still happy to attend church at this point, but I don’t know that it had much effect on my life outside of the times when I was at church or participating in parish-related activities.

When I left for college, many things in my life changed. This, in itself, is not unusual, and is generally experienced by most that go to college. Most of the changes I experienced were due to a lack of maturity on my part, and this contributed to a general laziness regarding my spiritual life. While I still believed in God, and considered myself a Methodist at this point, I had stopped attending church. Part of the reason was a growing belief that I did not need church in order to retain my relationship with God, and another part was the fact that I generally was just going to bed around the time most worship services were starting. Satan knows scripture about as well as anyone, and he often uses it to convince you that what you're doing is right. In my case, he used my ignorance of scripture to help me justify myself in not going to church.

In the middle of these changes, I was confronted for the first time with the topic of abortion. One of the guys that lived on my hall in the dorm my first year at school asked me where I stood on the issue. I told him, truthfully, that I had never really thought about the issue and that I really had no opinion on the matter. He told me that it was far too big an issue and I had better decide where I stood sooner rather than later. To me, the issue seemed to be fairly cut and dried and I approached it from an unusually neutral perspective. I had (and still have) strong leanings toward personal freedom, so I posed the question to myself: which one takes priority? A woman's rights as an individual or the right to be born? It sounds callous, I know, but that was how I looked at it. I never consciously prayed about it, but I believe God knew the questions in my heart and suddenly one day a couple of weeks after running this question through my mind, the answer came to me: murder is always wrong, even if done in the name of personal liberty. In all my wanderings I've never wavered from that idea.

Gradually, my loose affiliation with the Methodist church turned toward something more akin to an apathy towards religion in general. As I took more classes and read more over the course of those intervening years, I became convinced that one could live a moral life outside the structure of a Church. My apathy at its worst became a dislike for religion and I became uncomfortable discussing God and my views on faith. I considered myself at this point in my life to be an Agnostic, leaning somewhat towards Atheism.

I remember going out to dinner with a buddy of mine one night and as we were driving I turned to get something from the back seat. As I was turned, I noticed the bulletin from his Church on the seat. I remember feeling something akin to anger or contempt at the sight. I tell you this to show you just how far from God I was at this time. After my conversion, I identified that emotion for what it truly was: guilt.

Note that while I am pointing out the different stages here in this narrative, all of the changes were very gradual, and occurred over the course of many years.

I remember calling my best friend at some point toward the latter part of this period and the subject of our conversation turned to religion. It seems that he had recently started attending the Catholic Church in his area, and was thoroughly enjoying himself. I distinctly remember telling him that I found it quite interesting that as he was moving closer to God, I found myself growing more distant by the day. This incident in and of itself is fairly inconsequential, but it sticks with me to this day as critical in my path. Was this God calling me home? If so, it wasn't the last time I said no and continued my self-absorbed path.

Early in 2005, a woman by the name of Terri Schiavo made national news. She was in a coma and was being kept alive via a feeding tube. Her husband wanted to have the feeding tube removed so that she could die, while her family was adamant that she be allowed to live. I was a regular listener of the Sean Hannity show at this time, and he was very outspoken on the family’s behalf. He spoke at great length on the issue, telling the audience why he believed her husband was totally wrong on this issue, and how his faith in God backed up his arguments. Mr. Hannity is a Catholic, as is Terri’s family, and he pointed out how the Church was at the forefront of the pro-life movement, both in condemning abortion as evil, and standing up against the “culture of death” that wanted to be able to kill people who were an inconvenience to them. Despite my total denial of any sort of faith, Sean’s arguments resonated with me. I agreed with his points in the case, even though I did not share his religious viewpoint.

Also around this time, Pope John Paul II became very ill. If I remember correctly, it was just before Easter. He died shortly thereafter, and I knew that whether or not I believed, this was an important time for the Church. I watched with interest as the cardinals voted to elect Cardinal Ratzinger the next Pope.

I think it was the Friday before Easter when Terri Schiavo finally died from starvation. Her husband had won the court battle, and had been allowed to remove her feeding tube. According to his lawyers, it would be a peaceful, serene death. I never saw any pictures of her during this time, but I find it hard to imagine being starved to death as anything close to serene, much less peaceful.

Looking back on all this with the perspective that hindsight offers, it seems so obvious that God was using these events as a sign to me of where I needed to be in my life, yet I, like so many others, followed my own wisdom, and blithely ignored them. On Saturday night, the night before Easter Sunday, my entire life began to change. As I sat at my computer playing games or what have you, I was overcome by a need to be at church the next morning. This feeling came from nowhere and was completely at odds with everything going on in my life at the time. Even now, all I can tell you about it was that the Holy Spirit gave me an absolute, no-doubt knowledge that I HAD to be at Church the next morning. In the back of my mind, it seemed like it should be a Catholic Church that I attend, but the overwhelming message was that I attend church. To show you just how long my road was, I was less than excited by the thought of attending church, but I found it somewhat difficult to ignore. I picked up the phone book and found the section of churches. Given that I was living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the time, this was a rather large section, so I had to narrow my search somewhat. I think at this point, I began to listen to the signs, and I found the local Catholic parish (note the singular). I searched for the location on mapquest, and figured out how long it would take to get there, and what time I needed to leave. Now, remember the part where I said that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of attending church again? I decided that since that wasn’t my idea of fun, I would only go if I woke up in time. Ideally, this meant I needed to be awake by 9:30 so that I could make it by 11:00. Anyone that knows me will realize that this was a longshot at best. I generally considered it a victory to get out of bed by 11:00 on the weekends. I played around on the computer a while longer, and sometime after midnight went off to bed, making sure not to set the alarm clock. The next morning, I awoke at 9:30 to the minute. Sighing, I realized that I had indeed made a promise to myself, if no-one else, and so I began to get ready. After showering and putting on my suit, I jumped in the car and proceeded to follow the directions that I had looked up the previous night.

I walked into the Church and found myself a seat towards the back. As I sat there waiting for Mass to start I had the distinct feeling that there was indeed someone present. Someone other than the parishioners and the priest and deacon. I knew in my heart that God was indeed present in this building, watching and listening to the service. Being that I came from a Protestant background where communion was no big deal, I honestly had no idea that Catholic communion was any different than what I had grown up with. For some reason, though, I felt that I should ask the woman next to me about it. In my pride, I ignored this prompting; possibly because she was absolutely beautiful. So I did what I'd been doing the for the entire Mass – I mimicked what everyone else was doing and I went up to receive communion as if I were Catholic. At this parish, they offered both the host and the cup. As I received each one, it was almost like being struck by lightning. When I say this, I mean that it was an actual physical sensation of electricity as I received each species. It was something that I had never experienced before and I was totally unprepared for it. I managed to make it through Mass mainly by imitating the actions of the people near me.

Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed at this point. After Mass had ended, I stuck around and waited for the Deacon to have a free moment. I explained to him that I had grown up Methodist, and the feeling that I had experienced the previous night. I also explained to him my lack of faith, and the fact that I had not set my alarm clock. Deacon Fran told me that he believed that God wanted me to come to their church that morning, and he gave me the name of the woman in charge of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). This is the class that anyone interested in joining the Catholic Church must attend in order to be received into the Church.

Since school was out for the week due to Easter break, I stopped by the church office and talked to the lady in charge. Naturally, RCIA had just ended because those in it had just been confirmed at the Easter Vigil. She told me that she wasn’t sure if they would be starting a new RCIA class until next spring, but she took my contact information, and gave me the book that they give all candidates so that I could have something to read in the meantime. I think it took me about a week to finish the book, at which time I went to return it to her. She told me it was mine to keep, and maybe a week or two later, she called to tell me that they would be starting a summer RCIA class. It seems they had 18 people wanting to join the Church. I was excited, albeit somewhat nervous, and started going to the class. While at this point, I was certain that I would be attending church on a regular basis, I was a bit hesitant at the idea of leaving the Methodist Church behind and changing churches. My hesitation led me to make a phone call that I never would have considered making under any other circumstances. I was concerned that my conversion to Catholicism might upset my parents, and I needed them to support me in this if I was going to make it. In between classes one day, I sat down in a private room and I called my mother. I gave her a brief background on what had led up to the choices with which I was now faced. Nearly overcome with tears, I asked told her that I needed to know she could support me in my decision because I wasn't sure I could make it otherwise. I can’t imagine how surprised she must have been, but she told me that she was just happy that I was going back to church, regardless of where it was. Having cleared that hurdle, I now had to face my own doubts and reservations.

Fortunately, the RCIA classes lasted all summer long, which gave me plenty of time to contemplate the changes and pray over them. I asked God on a regular basis to let me know which direction I should go, and I saw nothing that indicated I was going against His wishes. In fact, the people I met at that church were some of the nicest, and most helpful that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing in a church setting. All of these things helped to ease my mind regarding my decisions. As I started RCIA, however, I was given a study abroad opportunity at school where I would be studying in Japan for a month. This was to be the month of June – right in the middle of my formation. The RCIA director really didn't have a problem with it, so I made plans to go. It was a trip of a lifetime, although I realize that my formation and understanding of Catholicism was stunted because of it.

On October 9, 2005, I became a full member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was a day I had waited for all summer, and I am still thoroughly convinced that I made the right decision (albeit with a great deal of help). Unfortunately, my graduation soon followed my membership in the Church, and I was forced to leave the Church I had come to love. Before I left Alabama, however, I went to the Diocese of Raleigh website, and began a list of possible churches to attend once I moved to North Carolina. As soon as I arrived there, I began visiting churches in the area, and, after much deliberation and prayer, I signed up to become a member of St. Raphael the Archangel of Raleigh. Almost immediately, I spoke to the choir director, who was thrilled at the prospect of gaining another tenor (they only had two at the time). In April 2006, I was admitted to the Knights of Columbus and have since been honored with exemplification to the fourth degree.

Many conversion stories you read end here – a happily ever after as they revel in their newfound faith as Catholics. My story is really just beginning. I entered the Church and like many others, I was on fire for the faith. I was finally home and at peace with God's calling. The problem was that I was an on fire Cafeteria Catholic. I had missed a good deal of formation and instruction while I was in Japan and so had carried far too many Protestant ideals into my life as a new Catholic. I denied many truths and dogmas of the faith that are critical to being a Catholic in good standing. Fortunately, God is nothing if not patient and He always has a plan. When I moved to Raleigh, I had a job but it didn't start for close to six months. This gave me a lot of free time as you can imagine. I truly wanted to know God and his ways, so I began watching and listening to EWTN. As I listened, watched, and read, my heart began to be opened to the truths that the Catholic Church professes. It took a long time, possibly a year or more, but eventually a thought occurred to me one day: “Why would you profess a faith and not believe everything it teaches? That makes no sense whatsoever.” I knew I was being given another choice and this time I chose God. I resolved at that point to believe all that the Church taught, without exception, and live my life according to those principles. I won't lie and say that made things easier, but it seemed then (as it does now) that the choice was either to believe it all or return to my Methodist roots.

Shortly after making this decision in favor of God, I was forced to relocate to Greensboro. Once I had moved and found a new parish home, I began to search for my place in the Church. I spoke to my new pastor and we both agreed that the priesthood probably wasn’t where I was being called. He did, however, suggest that I try the local Benedictine monastery. Later that year I called the Abbot of Belmont Abbey and scheduled a retreat weekend. I had never met a religious before, and wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It turned out to be a fantastic weekend and I ended up spending the better part of two years making monthly retreats with them. Eventually I realized that while I loved the Benedictine simplicity and structure, I couldn’t make the commitment to live in that one house for the rest of my life. Regardless, I will always be thankful to those monks for introducing me to the Liturgy of the Hours. That gift has really given structure to my prayer life and helped me to ensure that I am praying every day.

A couple of years after this, I finally got my finances lined up well enough that I could do something I had been wanting to do since I was in RCIA: move to Japan and teach English. I made up my mind that I would apply this one time. If I got it, I would leave and not look back. If I didn’t, I was going to take a more active leadership role in my Knights of Columbus council and spend the rest of my time racing. The application process for teaching in Japan is very long and involved, taking almost six months to complete. The whole time I prayed that God’s will be done. I kept waiting for them to find some reason to reject my application, but they never did. Finally, in Spring of 2013 I got a call saying that they wanted me to teach.

I had thought some about the difficulties of being a Catholic in Japan before I got here, but I really had no idea. Japan is not a Catholic country. It’s not even remotely Christian. Last time I looked, about 0.4% of the population is Catholic. I was placed in a very remote area of Japan, about midway between two parishes. The closest of the two is an hour drive. Sunday Mass (there’s only one offered) generally consists of about 20 people. Sometimes we have as few as 10. On a really busy weekend we might have 30. There isn’t a choir, and there are no groups to join to help fit in with the community. I don’t say all this as a complaint, but more as an insight into how we tend to take those kinds of things for granted in Western countries. The parishes in the US and basically all Western countries provides you a sort of spiritual safety net on which to fall back in times of need. That simply doesn’t exist here. In some ways, this has helped me to remain solid in my faith. Without that safety net, I have to be far more diligent in the practice of my faith.

I have no idea what God has in store for me next. Perhaps I will return to America in a couple of years and get back to life as it was. Or maybe I will stay here and get a job in one of the major cities. Either way, I know that I will have the Catholic faith to use as my compass and guide.

May God bless you.

To find out more about Elliott and his journey in the Catholic faith, visit him at latinrite.wordpress.com.

If you have found this story helpful in your spiritual journey we hope you will consider sharing it. Have feedback or would like to share your story? Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Catholic Convert

Jewels Green

Raised Lutheran, convert Jewels Green is a former abortion clinic worker turned ardent human rights advocate.

I grew up fatherless in a multigenerational household. Being surrounded by extended family – all the time – was a great comfort to me as an only child, as was attending Sunday School every week at the ELCA Lutheran church where my mother and her seven siblings were all baptized, where I was baptized, and where later my three sons would all be baptized as well.

I loved Sunday School and singing in the children's choir at church. The music of worship always made me feel happy, at peace, and closer to God. My favorite hymns of childhood still bring me such joy. I remember in one of the classrooms at Sunday School hung a beautiful painting of Jesus, surrounded by children, and I thought “it would be wonderful if He were my dad!” When the teacher explained that He was my spiritual Father, well, that suited me perfectly.

As the years went on, I embarked upon a bumpy road through a stage of adolescent rebellion, though I still went to Sunday school. I attended every Sunday, even with a shaved head and heavy black eyeliner – until I was sixteen. That's when my faith got shaky, then disappeared completely for a spell. I'd ‘fallen in with the wrong crowd’, which meant I'd fallen out of my religion.

Lutheran Convert

Ron Doub

Ron Doub was a life-long Lutheran but after 15 years of trying to convert his Catholic wife to Lutheranism, the tables got turned. Now Ron, a former computer-industry professional, evangelizes the faithful organizing parish pilgrimages to Catholic shrines in the US and throughout the world. In addition to his pilgrimage ministry, Ron also promotes Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs and the EWTN Media Missionary program in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is also a member at both the Legion of Mary and a Catholic men’s group at St. Mary Catholic Church in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Why Am I Catholic? Well, it was never my intention but I always tell people that the Holy Spirit has a great sense of humor and I’m living proof! Here’s my story!


I was born and raised in a wonderful Lutheran (ELCA) family in Williamsport, Maryland, a small town in western Maryland. My parents were very active in the Lutheran church teaching Sunday school, confirmation, vacation bible school and more. In fact after my father’s death, my mother went to Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary and was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1985.

I was also very active in the Lutheran church throughout my high school years, which culminated in me being confirmed and becoming the president of the church youth group, the Luther League, for two years.

Evangelical Convert

Renée Lin

Renée Lin joined the Catholic Church in 2003 after a lifetime in Evangelical Protestant. Renée currently works in research at a medical practice in central Virginia.

“The Bible says it…. I believe it…. that settles it!”

If Thomas Road Baptist Church had an unofficial mantra back in the 1990s, that probably would have been it. Dr. Jerry Falwell was fond of saying that, and I enjoyed hearing it. I took the Bible seriously, very seriously, and if Scripture made a pronouncement on an issue, it seemed only reasonable to me to take those verses as literally as possible and to act upon them. If a Christian couldn’t base his life on the Word of God, then what else was there?

One Sunday morning when Dr. Falwell proclaimed that “everything we believe and do here at Thomas Road comes straight from Scripture,” I took that seriously, too. Everything we believe and do…. Everything?

Evangelical Convert

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a convert to the Catholic faith who entered the Church in 1983. Her apostolate, Loaves and Fishes, is dedicated to teaching, evangelism and prayer through word and song.

I was baptized Catholic, but raised, Confirmed and Communicated in the Episcopal Church because my parents had both been divorced and remarried. My mother and I attended a Billy Graham Crusade the summer before I entered the 6th grade. That event introduced us to a personal relationship with Jesus which led to our joining an Evangelical Free church with a choir, Bible studies, and a dynamic youth ministry. I graduated from a Catholic girls' High School. Then, I left home for college.

When I became a Roman Catholic, I became the unimaginable—at least what had been up until that point, unimaginable to me. There was no reason to make a drastic move like that. After all, I had Christ. I certainly didn't need anything else. Both faith and Scripture were in my back pocket. Aside from my ambitions and goals, Jesus was the focus of my life. In my teens, it was easy for me to believe that even my unquenchable drive for success, somehow, served Him. Freelancing faith seemed like the best of this world and the next. But a series of experiences over the course of five years added up to convince me otherwise, so much so, that on the Vigil of Easter in 1983, at St. Paul's Church, as a senior at Harvard, I came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Baptist Convert

Brett Farley

Brett grew up and was baptized in a traditional First Southern Baptist Church in the Heartland. But a chance invitation from his grandmother to Christmas Mass 1998 sparked a 13-year struggle and journey that resulted in his acceptance, along with wife of 15 years, Jessica, into full communion with the Church on the Feast of Christ the King, 2011. Brett is active in the parish of St. Monica in Edmond, Oklahoma, and serves in various conservative Catholic organizations and institutions.

Approaching the Water

I was born and raised in a more or less Southern Baptist home. As a young boy my first recollections of church were at First Southern Baptist of Guthrie, OK, where I ultimately accepted Christ and was baptized at the age of nine. From there we moved to Clinton, OK, where we were very active at FSB-Clinton and I was among the 'Youth Leadership Council'. It was there that I had my first taste of legalism as I thought my debt to God for his mercy was to lead a holy life...and to impose holiness on those around me.

My family later moved back to Edmond, OK, in my eighth-grade year, but we did not immediately re-engage in a church. It was not until my college years that my parents rejoined the Community Baptist Church after it had split off from the FSB Guthrie due to internal conflicts. But that was well after I had met Jessica (my bride-to-be), and I was already in deep introspection about faith along with my involvement in Campus Crusade for Christ. Shortly thereafter in the winter of 1998, I learned my paternal grandmother had converted to Catholicism. I was livid.

Baptist Convert

Todd Meade

Todd is a former Southern Baptist who converted to the Catholic Church in 1999, four years after graduating from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He now lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife Wendy and their two young children, and works in the field of social services. He and his family are parishioners at St. Bernadette Catholic Church.

A Southern Baptist Liberty University alumni becomes Catholic

Every spiritual life is a journey. Mine began in Warner Robins, Georgia in 1971. I was born into a good Methodist family and had a strong Christian foundation laid for me in childhood. But unfortunately, as is all too common, during my teenage years I drifted away somewhat from this good foundation and was lukewarm at best towards Christianity. I still attended weekly church services and youth group activities, but my interests were mainly in having fun with my friends and having a spiritual life was far from my mind.

Evangelical Convert

Russell Stutler

On August 14, 2011, at the age of 54, Russell Stutler joined the Catholic Church after being an evangelical Protestant his entire life. Russell currently resides in Tokyo, Japan.

I was raised in a Protestant Christian home in Akron, Ohio, and we went to church every Sunday. During my childhood my family changed churches several times. We went to the Lutheran Church, Church of the Nazarene (where I promised God I would become a missionary someday), United Methodist Church (where I was baptized), Presbyterian Church, and a non-denominational evangelical mega-church called the Chapel in University Park where I became a member in my early 20s. It was a great teaching church, and I studied the Bible and memorized parts of it, which was the norm for members of that church. I studied New Testament Greek on my own so I could get at the underlying nuances in the text. I was very active in fellowship and evangelism programs, and my sense of calling to be a missionary was re-kindled there. I even went to Japan on a summer missionary program in 1983.

Baptist Convert

Steve Ray

Steve is a Catholic speaker, author, pilgrimage guide, and frequent guest on EWTN. The proud father of four, Steve lives with his wife Janet in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I can still smell the green vinyl of the used couch in our living room as I knelt with my mom, with my face buried in my hands and my nose pressed into the vinyl. She had decided I was old enough — after all I was four years old. She didn't want to wait any longer. She was eager.

When I was born I was taken to the front of Joy Road Baptist Church in Detroit Michigan held aloft and dedicated to Christ. I did not receive infant baptism. The thought of baptizing an infant was repugnant. Where do you find that in the Bible? That was a surely a man-made Catholic tradition.

My parents had "found Christ" less than a year earlier. After twelve years of painful miscarriages my parents had discovered Jesus through the preaching of Billy Graham. The radio was on one morning as my mother was getting ready to go shopping. With keys in one hand and purse in the other she stopped in the kitchen before heading out the door. She heard something she's never heard before.

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