A Journey for Truth
by Father Steve Anderson
My heart was pounding as I walked into the small café to meet with my Bishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. In this meeting, in February 1999, I planned to inform Bishop Fick of my intention to come into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I was nervous and concerned for how he might take my news. I knew that making this announcement would produce in me a certain sense of finality. But I did not fully understand the depth of emotion this would touch. Welling up and overflowing inside me was the excitement that after all these years of searching for truth; I had found a great treasure. I was certain I was ready to become Catholic, and this brought a profound peace that carried me through the variety of emotions connected to such a drastic conversion.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Mike McCaughna was a great friend during elementary and middle school. We were unbeatable in neighborhood football, had sleepovers, and got into a lot of mischief. Mike was a Baptist preacher’s son. It was during our friendship, in the early seventies, that I began to question my faith in a good way. I was Presbyterian, but I liked visiting Mike’s church as a boy because the singing was more upbeat, the preaching more energetic, and they had altar calls. People would walk to the front of the church to give their life to Jesus (I still do this at every Mass!). I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart and life when I was fourteen, and I gave myself to Him. When I was sixteen, I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in a very dynamic way. My faith and the Bible came alive in a way I had never imagined before. While this brought a power to live a more vibrant faith, another experience led me to focus my faith.
Like so many before me, when I was sixteen, I thought I really knew it all. And being newly filled with the Spirit, I was eager to talk about it. In a disagreement about the Bible one evening, Ray Scherf, a wonderful elder of our church, said something that has stayed with me for life. It became a driving force in my faith walk. In the middle of our debate he paused and said, “Steve, don’t ever be afraid of the truth.” I find it fascinating how something that simple stayed with me. But it was like a word from God. From that day on, I was committed to pursue the truth, even if it meant moving in a direction that made me uncomfortable. Twenty-four years later, that journey of truth led me to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Holy Spirit
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you (Acts 1:8).
“You got it didn’t you?” my mother asked. It was 1974 and I was just getting up in the morning and these were the first words I heard. I knew exactly what she meant, but I still asked, “what do you mean?” I was still beaming from spending most of the night before in prayer. I was sixteen and I spent the first part of the night reading the Bible and a booklet entitled “You Shall Receive Power.” At midnight I built up the courage to ask God to baptize me in His Holy Spirit. This took courage because I was nervous about speaking in tongues. By midnight, I set the books down, prayed, and began in faith to speak in tongues. The tongues were not impressive to hear, but the Holy Spirit graciously and overwhelmingly filled me with Rivers of Living Water that flowed out of me all night. The next three hours were completely energized by God’s powerful presence as I prayed, sang, gave thanks, rejoiced, and read my Bible. The next morning my mother could still see my encounter with God on my face.
I rejoice when I read how those who received the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts spoke—in tongues, prophesied, and witnessed to Jesus’ resurrection with power. I rejoice because I spoke too. For three years, I could not stop telling people how they could receive Jesus, and how they could be filled with the Holy Spirit too. We used to joke how a person who has just been baptized in the Holy Spirit should be locked up for a year because they can’t keep quiet. Three years later, at Oral Roberts University, there were so many young people who were eager to witness to their faith that it became offensive. Witnessing about this power of the Holy Spirit became awkward so I stopped. Until one afternoon I was walking down the hall in the dorm to my room.
One of my fondest memories began as I passed Bobby’s room in the dorm. The Spirit distinctly spoke within me saying, “Go ask Bobby if he has received the Holy Spirit.” Instantly, I said, “No way, people get offended by that.” Again, the Holy Spirit clearly said, “Go ask Bobby if he has received the Holy Spirit.” I refused. By now I had made it to my room. But I doubled up on my bed because suddenly I had stomach cramps. I heard the voice again in me say, “Go ask Bobby if he has received the Holy Spirit.” The cramps were bad, and strangely, seemed related to my refusal to comply, so I consented. The cramps were gone as quick as they came. “But that’s it. I’ll ask, then, I’ll leave.”
I knocked on Bobby’s door reminding God that I would ask and quickly leave. There was no answer and I was about to leave when Bobby opened his door just a crack and peaked out. The room was dark and his eyes were puffy so I assumed he had been sleeping. This was worse. It seemed that I woke him up just to make him angry. I said, “Bobby, don’t get angry but I need to ask you a question, and then I’ll leave.” He said “OK.” “Have you ever received the Holy Spirit?” His face showed interest as he opened his door all the way. I could see his bed was made, and discerned that he had not been sleeping. He invited me in and said, “No, but I have been praying in my room since eight o’clock this morning that God would send the right person to show me how.” Wow. Isn’t it great when we get to be somebody’s answer to prayer?
That spring, in 1978, Bobby was riding his motorcycle to the florist to buy flowers for his mother on Mother’s Day. Tragically, a car hit him from behind. It was a terrible accident. Nine days later, he woke from a coma to see his mother standing by him with flowers all around. Confused, and having no knowledge of the accident, he reached for some flowers and said, “Here mom, these are for you.” She immediately broke into tears of relief and rejoicing. The doctors told Bobby that he would not be able to walk or even hold a golf club. Bobby hoped to become a professional golfer. That fall he described to me how he would pray in tongues every day for hours. He credits his experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, which produced a complete trust in God, with his speedy and complete recovery. In a short time he did turn pro.
The Holy Spirit is the dynamic in my life—the dunamis or power. My journey was always for truth. The Holy Spirit would truly lead me into all truth, as I studied the Bible, and the first three hundred years of Christian history. Just as the Holy Spirit directed me to speak to Bobby, the Holy Spirit was the One who led me to the Catholic faith. And as with Bobby, I resisted but the Spirit persisted. I imagine that if I could see in the spiritual world, I would see tracks in the ground where my heels have been dug in for the last twenty some years. The Holy Spirit would consistently challenge me to believe every truth in the Bible.
All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16).
Some say the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Beginning at sixteen, I, too, spoke in tongues, and enjoyed the Holy Spirit manifesting other gifts through me. But more than anything, I experienced an insatiable desire to read the Bible. After two years with a steady diet of Spirit-filled prayer, Bible study, tape series, and retreats, I discerned that God was calling me to be a pastor in the church. I transferred to Oral Roberts University in 1977 to prepare to be a pastor. I was determined to guide God’s people into truth, not dead religion. I would find that truth, with the Spirit’s help, in the Bible.
At Oral Robert’s University I devoted myself to study the Bible. For me, Hebrew and Greek were fun because they would be important tools for my quest. I remember my excitement when I had reached the level where I could take classes that actually read through books of the Bible in Hebrew or Greek. One part of being scholarly was to research all the great Bible scholars and theologians through the ages, find out what they had to say about a Bible passage or topic, determine the strengths and weaknesses of each argument, and then write my conclusions. This was like an intense and exciting mission to sift through the great mysteries of the Bible, and discover once and for all the truth of the Holy Scriptures. But like all great human missions, I encountered a problem. My determination in the Spirit remained strong, but my excitement was now challenged with the real struggle involved in my pursuit of truth.
The first thing I realized was that I was not the first to attempt this noble task. Great men of faith before me had learned Greek and Hebrew and had studied the Scriptures in detail. Though they were brilliant scholars, none seemed to be able to agree. Even within the same denomination, each scholar had a differing opinion. I began to see how each person’s theology, experience, agenda, and culture actually influenced his or her interpretation of any given Bible passage. Many factors affected the way a Bible scholar chose to interpret a passage. Finding the truth with certainty in this life became a more complex struggle. Overcoming my own biases would be hard work.
Pursuing truth in the Bible is a great endeavor. But for me as a Protestant, the Bible itself raised some concerns. We would refer to these sections of the Bible as “hard passages.” All to often, a hard passage for a Protestant was a verse or verses that taught a Catholic truth. These we would set on the shelf, so to speak, until we got to heaven. In heaven, we planned to ask Jesus what these verses really meant. I did not fully realize how much more of the Bible the Catholic tradition would allow me to believe until twenty years later at a private dinner with a Protestant brother.
Dinner with Dave
They examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11)
Dave was a preacher in a Bible believing denomination in 1999. He seemed genuinely troubled that I would become Catholic after believing in the Bible alone as the source of my faith, and faith alone as the key to eternal life. We agreed to meet for dinner at a local Big Boy restaurant for a friendly discussion. I let Dave set the agenda for our discussion by asking if he could tell me his most pressing concern about the Catholic Church. That was easy—the Catholic Church, he said, undermined the Word of God by its man made tradition. Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees for this same thing. We agreed to discuss this particular issue at dinner.
I asked Dave if he would be comfortable preaching in his church “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:20). We discussed how this was the only place in the Bible where the words “faith alone” appeared together. Dave acknowledged that this is the only time the two words “faith alone” appeared together in the Bible. I was a little surprised when he said he would not preach this in his church. I challenged him to consider that the doctrine of “faith alone” is a man made tradition from the Reformation and is refuted in the Bible. I also challenged him to consider that his tradition undermined this Bible verse.
Dave began to question me concerning important verses he thought Catholics did not believe. He asked if I believed Ephesians 2:8-9 which said, “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and it is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” Yes. I certainly believe that. Catholics fully believe that “it is by grace that we are saved, and again it is by grace that our works can bear fruit for eternal life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1697). We thank the Holy Spirit in us for bringing us to faith, and we thank Jesus, who lives in us, for continuing to do good works through us. To God be the glory! Many of my Protestant friends did not know the official Catholic teaching about grace and good works.
We followed this pattern through many different places in the Bible. The verses I shared showed how the Catholic teaching on baptism, tradition, and the Eucharist come directly from the Bible.
“This prefigured baptism, which now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).
“... He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
“I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2).
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16)?
“‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Gather sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven . . .Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ . . . As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6: 51-66).
Dave admitted that he did not believe what these Bible verses were plainly saying. His tradition of faith alone, and the Bible alone would, in the end, undermine his desire to believe every truth written in the Word of God. I know, because I had been there. Where does it say in the Bible that if we simply label a verse a “hard passage” we can ignore it, and we do not have to believe it? Dave continued to raise some verses he thought Catholics do not believe. But every verse he introduced is believed within the Catholic tradition. I was almost surprised by the outcome: Protestant tradition, not Catholic tradition, would sometimes undermine the Word of God. I no longer struggled with hard passages. The Bible, that came alive for me by the Holy Spirit, truly is a Catholic book. My Catholic faith was strengthened. I was able to believe all that the Bible teaches.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 2:42).
Going back twenty years to Oral Roberts University, my excitement was growing about a class that was coming up. Being raised Presbyterian (Reformed) and having become Charismatic, I had a class coming up that was taught by a man who was Reformed and Charismatic. Dr. Charles Farah taught Systematic Theology III, and the class was devoted to integrating these two parts of my spiritual formation. When he became ill, Dr. Williams, an Eastern Orthodox convert, took the class; but he changed the area of focus. Instead of studying Reformed and Charismatic theology, we got a steady dose of early church fathers with an Eastern Orthodox twist. Many of us were quietly outraged. Dr. Williams seemed to convert two or three seminarians each year to the Eastern Orthodox Church. We had the Bible. We had the Spirit. Why were we learning our faith from a man who valued a religion of dead ritual?
Catholic from the Start
I will build my church (Matthew 16:18).
One of the church fathers we read was Justin Martyr. He wrote around 140 AD. Justin was interesting because his writing includes the earliest description of a Church service. This was great! This would be proof in writing that the Church was a simple Bible believing, Spirit-filled worshipping community. I dove into the reading with tremendous anticipation. What would it say? I was shocked. I remember hearing myself saying, “Look how fast they fell away from the faith!” The Holy Spirit immediately spoke in me saying, “No Steve, it is you who are two thousand years removed from the Apostles.” I read it again with an open mind. The first recorded church service had all the elements of the Catholic Mass. This was difficult to accept, but I still had a way out. The Episcopal liturgy resembles the Catholic Mass. My prejudice against Catholicism ultimately meant that I would become Episcopal first.
Complete my joy being of the same mind (Philippians 2:2).
A second church father would change my life. Irenaeus was bishop of Lyon, France from 180-202 AD. He was the disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna who was the disciple of the Apostle John. The historians I read were somewhat disinterested in Irenaeus, because they said he added nothing new to the development of Christian theology. Aha, my interest was piqued. A bishop in the second century who taught nothing new, but authentically passed on the Apostolic faith. Irenaeus, himself, contends that his teaching is the very teaching of the Apostles. One of his books was even titled, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. Then he wrote the most fascinating thing.
In another of his books, Against Heresies, Irenaeus challenges his reader not to take his word alone, but to go to any of the bishops of any of the churches in his day because they are all teaching the same thing. Tears came to my eyes. I said, “Not any more Irenaeus, today we all tend to teach our own thing.” I began to read everything this faithful bishop had written, looking for the true faith that was held with one mind at the beginning of the Church.
The Pope’s Authority
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church (Matthew 16:18).
Then came the most amazing statement of all. I had been taught that Pope Gregory the Great was the one who first claimed universal authority for the Pope in the sixth century. Irenaeus proved this wrong. He was explaining to his reader how he could easily list the Apostolic succession of every bishop of every church in his time. But to do so would require too much space in his book. He decided he would only give the Apostolic succession of the bishop of the church of Rome. Why? Because, he said, everyone had to agree with that church anyways on account of its “preeminent authority”. The authority of the church of Rome went back to the teaching of the Apostles!
My final decision to come into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church was influenced profoundly by St Irenaeus. To my delight, Irenaeus’ writings were steeped in Biblical references, and he advocated for the importance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He once rebuked those who deny the gift of prophecy writing, “they are like a leafless terebinth in the dessert, and they are of no use to God.” He was a remarkable bishop who was faithful, and wholly committed to one thing: pass on the Apostolic Tradition he had received from Polycarp, who had received it from John, who had laid on the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do this in memory of me (Luke 22:19)
All the earliest writers gave a special importance to the Eucharist. The Didache, Justin Martyr, and especially Ignatius gave instructions and directions concerning the Eucharist. Eucharist was the center of the early Church’s worship. The question I had was whether to emphasize the words, “This is my body,” or “Do this in memory.” Was the Eucharist always understood to be the Body of Christ, or was the Eucharist originally just a memorial? What I came to understand was that the Biblical use of “memory” was much more than recalling a past event.
One of the bishops in the Charismatic Episcopal Church explained the meaning of the word “memory” in a way that clearly demonstrated that the two interpretations go together. He explained that if a modern American couple wanted to remember their wedding, they would get out the wedding photo album and go through each picture remembering all the guests and events of the day. This is not how the Bible uses the word memory. If a Jewish couple of the first century decided to remember their wedding, she would get out her wedding dress, and he would put on his wedding clothes. They would rent the same place in which they were married, and the place they had their reception. They would make arrangements to obtain the services of the person who married them, and invite all the original guests. They would actually relive, or re-member the wedding.
When the Jews in the Bible, who lived a thousand years after the time of Moses, would remember the great events of the Exodus they spoke as if they were the ones actually there. The ritual remembering connected them to the event. When Jesus commands, “Do this in memory of me,” he intends that we relive the Eucharist in a way that we actually participate in the original once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. This is the reason Paul says, The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ (1Corinthians 10:16)? “Do this in memory of me”, and “This is my body” are two sides of the same coin!
The Rich Tradition
The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
One day in 1999 I was speaking with Mike Gilbert one of our parishioners at Church of the Resurrection. Mike had called several weeks earlier to tell me that he and his family were becoming Roman Catholic. Even though I was becoming Catholic at Easter, I hated to see them go. I wished they would stay with us at Resurrection through Easter. Mike had just finished a graduate degree in theology at Ashland Theological Seminary through a satellite program at Wayne State University in Detroit. Mike was a Bible believer, filled with the Spirit, and we had done Evangelism Explosion together in the parish. We talked many times and would rejoice together at the journey we were on.
This time we were captured by the wonder of it all. We both realized how rich two thousand years of saints and spiritual tradition would actually be. As much as we loved our experience in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, we could honestly read the whole history in one sitting. Within the Catholic tradition we marveled that we would never be able to pray through all the spiritual writings of the saints. We would never be able to read all the great theological works written over two thousand years. Our new tradition was a rich tradition. Though this was not the main reason I became Catholic, it was much more than just icing on the cake.
And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:20).
“Don’t they know what that means?” my dad exclaimed as he dialed the phone to call a family in our church twenty-five years ago. It was 1974 and their teenage son was dating a Catholic girl! As a boy, I listened to my dad explain the many dangers of the Catholic Church. I would not be able to become Catholic easily. Much of my seminary training involved anti-Catholic apologetics. Evangelism Explosion trained me to evangelize, and even provided the tracts and technique for evangelizing Catholics because they did not believe in faith alone. These kinds of things created a deep bias in me. I was carrying significant emotional baggage in me that resisted becoming Catholic.
Throughout my life, I had studied the Bible and found it to be Catholic. Church history was Catholic. Tradition was Catholic. I remember studying modern Charismatic History and Theology at Oral Robert’s University. We learned that one of the first Pentecostal groups was actually led by the Holy Spirit into the Catholic Church. Because of this journey for truth, I had become Catholic in faith and worship style, but I was not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Why? I decided to explore the possibility of coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
What about Mary
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42)
My wife, Cindy, and I would talk almost every day in the fall of 1998. What about Mary? What about the Pope? We went through every issue quite thoroughly and we took our time. Though I was committed to find the truth, I loved being the pastor of the wonderful people at Church of the Resurrection. There was no hurry. Looking back, I imagine that I looked at every issue so closely because we did not want to leave Resurrection. What would being Catholic mean for us? What would it be like to be Catholic? Ultimately, I needed to be honest.
Someone once told me, if you want to know what Israeli’s think, don’t ask Palestinians. To find out what Catholics believe really about Mary I could no longer be honest if I only asked anti-Catholics. I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Catholic teaching is very clear. Catholic teaching instructs the faithful to worship only God. And Catholics worship God as Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Catholics use the word “adore” or “adoration” for worship. Catholics use the word “venerate” or “veneration” with reference to the respect and honor that is appropriate for human beings. Catholic teaching forbids the worship of Mary. Catholics venerate Mary as the mother of Jesus who is fully God and fully Man. Catholics, also, ask Mary to intercede for them to her son Jesus Christ. This teaching is clear and consistent.
Some people very close to me said, “I do not care what the Catholic Church teaches, when I look at those people I can plainly see they are worshipping Mary.” Sounds like Archie Bunker saying, “don’t bore me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.” In all fairness, even if someone wrongly did worship Mary, this does not mean Catholics worship Mary any more than the Pentecostal who reads their horoscope means Pentecostals believe in astrology. Both persons act contrary to the clear teachings of their church. Catholics honor Mary (and Scripture) who proclaims in the Bible: from now on will all ages call me blessed. And in the same way a Protestant asks a friend to pray for them, Catholics ask their friends in heaven to pray for them. They are a great cloud of witnesses!
Others ask, “Why don’t Catholics go directly to Jesus who intercedes perfectly for us in heaven?” But, strangely, at the same time, they belong to the Intercessors Prayer Group at their Protestant church. It is common for Protestants to ask someone to intercede for them in prayer. Why won’t they ask those who live closest to the Lord in heaven to intercede for them in prayer? Talk about an untapped prayer resource.
One day Cindy was praying in the car asking God about the immaculate conception of Mary. Until that time, Cindy did not believe it. In her prayer, God revealed the reasons for this great truth. She came home excited to tell me about how the Holy Spirit had revealed to her the reasons for the Immaculate Conception. I was in shock. I got out the Catechism and read back to her almost word for word what she told me. I had just finished studying in the teachings of the Catholic Church, the very words she had heard in prayer. I kidded that it must be nice not having to study.
When we realized we were Catholic, we quit protesting against the Catholic Church. Obviously, the word Protest(ant) is a reference to the five hundred year protest against the Catholic Church. This culture of protesting is so strong with some that one of the Charismatic Episcopal Church teachers coined the phrase “Romaphobia.” For many Christians, they will not believe or practice something just because Rome does. I realized that the abuses that existed in the Church in the middle ages were corrected a long time ago. It was in the Charismatic Episcopal Church that I realized how much we Protestants had thrown out the baby with the bath water.
Infant Baptism in the Bible
This promise is for you and for your children (Acts 2:38)
Just before I was ordained a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, in 1995, I had to struggle with my position on infant baptism. The CEC baptized infants, and I needed to be 100% sure I believed in it too. In Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost he said to them,
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made for you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38-39).
Many who do not believe in infant baptism will say that the word “children” here refers to descendants, not necessarily their children alive at the time. So I let the Bible determine how the word “children” would be interpreted. I looked in the Greek to see what word was used in this verse. The Greek word is teknon. So I studied every place it was used in the New Testament. In every single use of the word teknon the New Testament means a person already born. Teknon never means a potential person. It could mean descendent in the sense of a person being a child of Abraham, but in every instance, that person was always already born. A descendent of Abraham not yet born is called “seed” of Abraham.
This distinction between a “child” meaning someone already born, and “seed” meaning someone not yet born is consistently followed. This is especially true in The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Therefore, the “children” in Acts 2:39 must have been born already. They were “children” not “descendants.” Baptism is for children! This helps interpret verses in which a person and their whole household were baptized.
In Colossians 2, baptism is compared to circumcision. Circumcision was performed on children born into the covenant, and converts and their children too. Children were always included in the Old Testament covenant and were marked by the sign of the covenant. How discouraging if children could not have baptism, the mark of the New Covenant? Interestingly, a study of the New Testament era reveals that Gentile converts to Judaism were washed in a ritual bath—their children too! The words that were spoken over them in this ritual bath are remarkably similar to the words used in the New Testament to describe baptism and its effects.
Baptism in the Early Church
Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them (Matthew 19:14).
The church fathers that address infant baptism all attribute it to Apostolic Tradition. Some, misleadingly, teach that Tertullian, the first of the fathers to speak of infant baptism, was against it. He was against it, but they neglect to explain that he wanted everyone, not just infants, to wait until they were near death so they would not abandon their faith after baptism. He acknowledged infant baptism was the early practice, but those who abandoned the faith later in life scandalized him. Interestingly, I was told that a recent study showed that a higher percentage of people baptized after the age of reason fall away from their faith than those baptized as infants. I wondered why we were not taught the whole truth.
The first Christian to describe the baptism of people of various ages is Hippolytus around 210 AD. He instructs the faithful to baptize the little ones first. If they can speak for themselves, let them do so, if they cannot yet speak for themselves, then let their parent or sponsor speak for them. Then baptize the men, and last the women. Hippolytus claims that this is the tradition that was passed down from the Apostles. “Believer’s baptism” that required all children to wait until the age of reason, I learned, was never practiced for those children who grew up within the Church until the Reformation 1500 years after the fact. Any early Christians who delayed baptism for their children, for any reason, were firmly rebuked for denying this grace filled sacrament to the infants. What a tremendous joy it has been for me to baptize many little ones into the New Creation in Jesus Christ.
We have given up everything and followed you (Matthew 19:27).
Coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1999 brought a great sense of fulfillment. Conversion, though, always has two sides. Those who have gone through conversion know this. I was certain I would become Catholic. I was uncertain what becoming Catholic would mean to all the cherished friendships I valued as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Peter once questioned Jesus saying, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus responded saying, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” So, all wrapped up together, I experienced the excitement and joy of gaining such a rich Catholic faith, with the potential of losing many of the people I loved the most.
The convocation of the Great Lakes Diocese of the Charismatic Episcopal Church in 1998 provided a good opportunity for people to get to know their diocese. Those who attended from my parish, Church of the Resurrection, were astonished to hear Bishop Fick introduce me to the diocese with such favorable words. He said that he loved all his priests, but that I was like a son to him. I genuinely felt this same close bond. Now I wondered, could our bond endure this important change in my life?
We had been on the same journey. We were really surprised that there were other people like us. Each one of us thought that he was the only one who believed in the Bible, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments and liturgy all at the same time. The Charismatic Episcopal Church was a brand new denomination of like-minded men and women attempting to recover and balance these three strands essential to the Christian tradition—the Bible, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments and liturgy. We were committed to grow in the truth. And it took courage to walk in this new convergence of three streams. Those men and women I journeyed with in the CEC remain dear to me to this day.
Those closest to me were my church family at Resurrection. Four years earlier, in the spring of 1995, we began by having dinner at the home of Joe and Ann Kinderman in Brighton. They were former Episcopalians who were looking for the same expression of the Christian faith that we had in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Soon after this dinner, we began to meet with five families of like mind—the Ackroyds, Hornbergers, Carters, Kindermans and Andersons. In June, I was ordained to the transitional diaconate and within a few months we had added the Goodes, Jeff Goodall, and Debbie Delmerico and her daughter. By the end of the summer, these were the original founding members of Church of the Resurrection. We were received as a mission parish and I was ordained a priest in the same Mass on September 15th. The Mass lasted three hours, we witnessed many wonderful manifestations of the Spirit, and we seemed to be sealed together by grace.
We doubled each year for a couple of years until we leveled off. We grew together. Everyone participated according to his or her gifts. Many did whatever else was needed. We rejoiced as David Hornberger studied and became a deacon. Cindy became a wonderful music leader, and I grew to be the pastor and father of a family knit together in love. As was the developing custom of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, we planned to be at Resurrection for life.
When we left in 1999, the profound depth of grief and loss was overwhelming. Those we were closest to in the parish and diocese seemed to cut us off. Perhaps they felt hurt, abandoned, or betrayed. For many, conversion has some very real costs. Peter and Jesus remind us of this. Weeping on my bed from my personal loss, I said to Cindy (who sat graciously beside me), no one will ever know what this was like. But people do know. My personal conversion contains many common elements other people have experienced. In the same way, I suspect that my personal reasons for coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church will speak to some of those courageous people who are going through this same process.
Now I have come to the café to inform my bishop I was becoming Catholic. He was sympathetic. He said he would like to be Catholic too, but they would not let him pastor a church. He was a pastor and could not give it up. The thought of not being a priest was devastating to me too. I suggested that only he could know how tough my decision really was. Maybe they would not let me be a priest, but they would allow me to be obedient. He had another concern. I could appreciate the rich treasure of the Catholic faith and leave so much to gain it, but other Catholics would not have this same appreciation of their faith. They would walk out of the church from the communion line, he said, they would not even wait for the blessing. When I finally came into the Catholic Church, I watched after the Mass on Sundays. Some people would take communion and leave immediately. But the truth is that most returned to their pew, and most of these kneeled to pray until communion ended. Most Catholics who attend church do have an appreciation of their faith.
My journey of truth will always continue, but my journey for the true Church has brought me home. Cindy and I have never looked back. Many of our former parishioners and diocesan friends have been restored to us. Some have even joined us in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Remarkably, the priest who replaced me at Resurrection has become Catholic too! We did not give up any of our faith. I am still a Bible Christian. I am still a Charismatic. We had truth as Protestants and we had a living faith. Ultimately, I kept what I had, and added to it the fullness of the Catholic faith that has been guarded faithfully, in an unbroken line, from the time of the Apostles and Jesus Christ. And I have learned, grown, and been enriched from the faith walk and wisdom of many saints who have loved Jesus with all their hearts, minds, and strength for almost two thousand years.