Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism

Under the radar of most observers a trend is emerging of evangelicals converting to Catholicism.

By Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

In the fall of 1999, I was a freshman at Gordon College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Massachusetts. There, fifteen years earlier, a professor named Thomas Howard resigned from the English department when he felt his beliefs were no longer in line with the college’s statement of faith. Despite all those intervening years, during my time at Gordon the specter of Thomas Howard loomed large on campus. The story of his resignation captured my imagination; it came about, ultimately, because he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Though his reasons for converting were unclear and perhaps unimaginable to me at the time (they are actually well-documented in his book Evangelical is Not Enough which, back then, I had not yet read), his reasons seemed less important than the knowledge that it could happen. I had never heard of such a thing.

I grew up outside of Boston in what could be described as an Irish-Catholic family, except for one minor detail: my parents had left the Church six years before I was born when they were swept up in the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s. So Catholicism was all around me, but it was not mine. I went to mass with my grandparents, grew up around the symbolism of rosary beads and Virgin Mary statues, attended a Catholic high school, and was present at baptisms, first communions, and confirmations for each of my Catholic family members and friends.

All throughout this time my parents never spoke ill of the Catholic Church; though the pastors and congregants of our non-denominational, charismatic church-that-met-in-a-warehouse, often did. Despite my firsthand experience with the Church, between the legend of my parents’ conversion (anything that happens in a child’s life before he is born is the stuff of legends) and the portrait of the Catholic Church as an oppressive institution that took all the fun out of being “saved,” I understood Catholicism as a religion that a person leaves when she becomes serious about her faith.

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2 Responses to Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism

  1. Barbara de Souza says:

    Many Catholics leave to join Evangelicals and Pentecostals hoping their born again experience will lead them away from the institution to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

    Actually we all have a hunger which has led some of us to be born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. But after the hype of signs and wonders wears off one undergoes inner healing, healing and deliverance. This is mostly in healing retreat centres run by the Protestant church who in England include many Roman Catholic minister of deliverance. However, Catholics are second class citizens, in these circles, as they are to remain silent about their own doctrine and keep to subjects where they are at one with their Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. Pentecostals have their own churches and I have been to a Christian Counselling course (university level) run by them.

    As you can see I have been on a journey while I keep to the tradition of the Catholic church, the doctrine which is very sound I have learnt more because Jesus is alive and our journey is on-going. I have learnt more because of my travels to the Protestant Healing Retreat Centres and Pentecostal church. Here education has been through experience.

    1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

    2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

    3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

    4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

    5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

    6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

    7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

    8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

    9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

    10. The forgiveness of sins:

    1l. The resurrection of the body:

    12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

  2. “I grew up outside of Boston in what could be described as an Irish-Catholic family, except for one minor detail: my parents had left the Church six years before I was born when they were swept up in the so-called “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s.” I can really relate to that from personal experience.

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