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Posts Tagged ‘Converting to Catholicism’

The Reverend Donald Minchew does not look like a man caught in the eye of a religious, political and spiritual storm. He is pink, smiley, 63, very chatty and smells comfortingly of tobacco. He is also a widower who enjoys watching the TV sitcom Rev, lives with his four grown-up sons (‘they somehow never left home’) and takes his turn to cook dinner. On his desk is a copy of Private Eye, a chocolate bunny and a flowery Easter card.

But he hit the headlines last week for defecting from his Church of England parish (of nearly two decades) to the Catholic Church just up the road — and publicly declaring that he felt like the Prodigal Son returning home. Father Donald Minchew, 63, is leaving St Michael’s & All Angels Church, and the Church of England, to become a priest at the Catholic Church across the road He criticised the ‘pap and banality’ promoted by the Church of England, described it as ‘a bit like a buffet, where you can pick and choose which commandments and doctrines you follow’ and complained it was telling people like himself — believers in traditional values who didn’t agree with the ordination of women and countless other innovations — to ‘sod off’. His sudden move, 36 years after he was ordained into the C of E and just 18 months before he was due to start drawing his £11,500-a-year pension, was dramatic enough. But, like the Pied Piper, he also took 70 members — nearly half — of his loyal congregation at St Michael and All Angels parish church in Croydon with him, leaving the General Synod of the Church of England reeling. Today, in his new office in the bowels of the red-brick St Mary’s Catholic Church five minutes round the corner, I am hoping to find out what caused a man who has dedicated his entire life to the Anglican Church to take such a radical decision. What made his flock follow with barely a backward glance? Happily, he is very keen to tell me, in great detail More…Kate Upton’s bad ‘habits’ infuriate Catholic church as swimwear model dons ‘nun-kini’ in The Three Stooges ‘Drunken’ Texas man, 21, ‘caught urinating on the Alamo’ ‘The job of a priest is to assist people in finding God. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be a bishop or an archdeacon. I just wanted to be a parish priest working with people. But every five minutes, ever since I was ordained, everything was changing in the Anglican Church. We’ve lived through all the revisions of the Prayer Book. ‘Then we had the Alternative Service Book, and Common Worship, and the hymn books . . . and women priests, and now women bishops. It was all meant to make us relevant and modern and bring more people into church. Instead, it failed spectacularly. Each innovation marked a steady haemorrhage in congregation numbers.’ Salvation came in the form of the Ordinariate, a body set up by the Pope for disaffected Anglicans to join the Church of Rome easily and quickly. It has already attracted thousands of Anglican worshippers and dozens of clergy from all over the country who have already crossed over to Rome. It sounds simple, but for Donald there was a lot at stake. Not just his spiritual home and life’s vocation but more prosaically, his pension and his home — the vicarage round the corner which he shares with his sons comes with the job. He has to leave in June. ‘I’ve been living there for 17-and-a-half years. I know all the neighbours — they’re my friends. They say divorce, death and moving house are the greatest traumas in life — and death’s pretty bloody final, as John Cleese once said.

But, perverse as it sounds, I’ve always had complete and utter trust in God, so I try not to worry too much about it — something will turn up. ‘I know it will. I trust it will. It always has — all my life.’ Almost half the congregation of St Michael’s and All Angels has followed its vicar and converted to Catholicism Donald Minchew was born in Donegal, Ireland, into a staunchly Presbyterian family. His mother was the daughter of the sexton of the church — but his father was married to someone else. ‘He promised to marry her, but he never did,’ he says. Instead, she moved to England, got a job as a hospital cook and put Donald and his elder brother Noel (‘same father, whoever he was!’) into care until she married a very understanding (and atheist) Royal Marine who reunited the family. Donald’s epiphany came when he was ten years old. ‘I knew this was what God was calling me to do and I never wavered. I said to my parish priest I want to be ordained. And he said, Donald, if God wants it to happen, it will.’ And it did, in 1976, after jobs in shoe shops and factories and four years at theological college in Wales. ‘Things were just about beginning to change in the Anglican Church back then — legislation for women priests was being discussed — but we didn’t think it would ever get off the ground. But it did and it never stopped. ‘You know what they say about some turbulent marriages? You hate each other but you can’t live without each other? Well a lot of us in the Church of England have that sort of relationship. We’d learned to live with it — until it all got a bit too much.’ It was last November — after nearly a year of handwringing, agonising and (presumably quite lively) discussions with the four sons who rarely went to church and would soon be homeless if he decided to go — that he made his big announcement in church. Father Minchew has taken around 70 parishioners from St Michael’s and All Angels Church (pictured) to the Catholic Church across the road ‘I put it off and put it off for three months. Then one Sunday at the end of November I did it. ‘I’m not the world’s most tactful man — I shoot from the hip. But I really wanted to get it right — I was worried people might think I was abandoning them. I was so nervous and emotional that I can’t really remember much of what I said, but I do remember saying: “I’m not abandoning you. I am leading you — and this is the pathway that I believe with all my heart we have to follow.”‘ His flock were ‘surprised and astonished’, but barely wavered. ‘Immediately after the service, at least 20 people came up to me and said: “Sign me up Father, I’m coming too.”‘ Four months later, 70 of them — and his sons (‘this whole thing has galvanised them’) — had joined him. There are certain practicalities to switching sides. He must attend a series of lectures and tutorials and his followers have to have a period of instruction in the essentials of the Catholic faith. And, er, what about the vow of celibacy? ‘The rule is, if you’re married now, you can be ordained with a wife. But if you haven’t got one, you can’t nip out and get one.’ And is that a big deal? I’m off: Father Minchew is heading across the road to St Mary’s Catholic Church ‘How do I put this gently? I’m at the age where all I want at night is a cup of cocoa. Everybody makes a great deal about celibacy and says it’s so hard. But it’s part of the discipline you accept.

We’ve forgotten about discipline and obedience in the Anglican Church.’ Donald predicts that if the General Synod votes in favour of women bishops in July, many more will follow him, all over the country. Many congregants share Donald’s concerns. Others just want to worship in a church where the congregation is huge and thriving rather than thin, failing and increasingly side-lined. Donald insists he isn’t homesick for his old church down the road (though, he says wistfully, ‘it is a very beautiful church’), but he must find it all rather strange. Instead of being ‘the big wheel’ in his parish, he is now the lowest of the low. He is not ordained in the Catholic Church, has no robes, no job title, no authority. ‘But I love it,’ he says. ‘I finally know where I am. I am not on shifting sand. For the first time in 30 years, I know what my Church believes in.’ And finally, what’s been the reaction of the Anglican Church? ‘The bishop of Southwark and the Archdeacon of Croydon have both been wonderfully supportive to me.’ And others? ‘I couldn’t possibly comment,’ he says with a twinkle.

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Taken from Goldstein Letters, by David Goldstein (a Jewish convert to Catholicism).

Dear Mr. Solomon,

 The minds of men have been pictured “like a sheet of paper in this, that the impressions it receives oftenest, and retains longest, are the black ones.” This applies to you, my Dear Sir, and to other Jews as well, who fail to see the Catholic Church as she is, the fulfilment of all that is great and glorious in Old Testament Judaism. Unfortunately, the “black” mental impression made upon you by the story of the Spanish Inquisition, as interpreted in Jewry, beclouds your vision.

Your impassioned query:—“What in heaven made you, a Jew, become a Catholic?” could be answered in a word:—The Messiah, the Jew of Jews, Jesus Christ, now reigning in “Heaven.” This terse answer to your query embodies all that can be said to justify graduating from Judaism to Catholicity. But I will not dismiss your query so abruptly, considering that I am going to publish the reasons for becoming a Catholic in The Pilot. Thus may my reply be likely to be read not only by you, but by other Jews who also “glance at The Pilot now and then in the Public Library.”

Your second query:—“How can a Jew become a member of a Church that persecuted the Jews in Spain?” will be dealt with after the answer to your first query appears in print. Suffice it to say, at present, that Jews become Catholics today for the same reasons that prompted Jews to become Catholics for more than 15 centuries before the Spanish Inquisition.

The Catholic Church, which may be called the Jewish Church glorified, is a Church of converts, and descendants of converts. First came Christ, the Jew of Jews; then come the Apostles, all Jews; then came the thousands of first members of the Catholic Church, all Jews; after which came converts from among the Gentiles. In fact there would not have been a Catholic Church were it not for the Jews. Hence, by becoming a Catholic, by being incorporated into the Mystical Body of the Messiah, I became a member of the Spiritual Society that originally belonged, in its entirety, to the children of Israel.

 

WHY DID I BECOME A CATHOLIC?

 

Because I believed in God; a personal monotheistic God; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Because I believed in the Old Testament; being firmly convinced that the principles and predictions of Moses and the other prophets therein, are revelations of God, as did my Jewish forebears.
 
Because I believed that the New Testament is a Divine record of perfected, elevated manifestations of Old Testament principles; a record of the fulfillment of Old Testament predictions.
 
Because I believed God, the Creator, made Adam and Eve, the first parents of the human race, from whom man received his human nature: That Adam, by sin, brought an affliction upon himself and caused his descendants to be born with the stain of this “Original Sin” upon their souls: That this sin of Adam closed the Gates of Heaven to man (Gen 3).

Because I believed that the all-merciful God promised to send a Redeemer, a Messiah (Gen. 3:15), to make reparation for the sin of Adam; thus to reopen the gates of Heaven that were closed to man. Also that the Messiah was to be born, of a virgin ( the Blessed Virgin Mary) in the house that is in the family of a descendant of King David, in the City of David.

Because I believed that the existence of the One True God, means the existence of but one true religion, one true Church of God.

Because I believed that that religion, that Church of God, was the religion and Church of the Jews. It came from God, through Moses, to the children of Israel.

Because I believed that that religion was an organic, visible, authoritative, priestly, sacrificial religion, as a religion of God’s making must be. Its priesthood was God’s priesthood; its temple was God’s Temple, which contained the one, and the only Altar upon which the God-commanded sacrifices (The Holy Eucharist), recorded in the Books of Moses, were and could be offered to the One True God (Exod. 20:24-26).
 
Because I believed that the authority of the God-made religion of Israel centered in the high priest, (Deut. 17:9-11), who alone is commissioned in the Mosaic Law to offer sacrifices (Levit. Chapters 1 to 7, inc.). The first high priest was Aaron, brother of Moses, ordained by Moses (Exod. 28); followed at death by a descendant of the house and family of Aaron. The high priest was “the supreme ecclesiastical authority and chief representative of Israel before God,” as Vallentine’s Jewish Encyclopedia says (p. 284). A list of 82 successive high priests, from Aaron to the time of the destruction of the Temple, is recorded in the Jewish Encyclopedia (Vol. VI, p. 391). Phineas, son of Samuel, was the last Jewish high priest (67-70 B.C.). He is listed in the Jewish Encyclopedia as “a man altogether unworthy” (Vol. 1, p. 381); because, as the Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge says, he was chosen as the result of political intrigue. He was not of high-priestly lineage nor as described was he in any way worthy of the office” (p. 428). (This is fulfilled in the 2000 year old Apostolic sucession of the RCC).

Because I believed that with the end of the Aaronic priesthood; the destruction of the Temple, which ended the offering of the Mosaic sacrifices, Old Testament Judaism, the Judaism of God, came to an end. Hence the Jews have not had a divinely delegated mediator with God; a judge, a Divine interpreter of the religious and moral law; a Church of God as is called for in the Book of Deuteronomy (17:8-12), for nearly nineteen hundred years. Gone forever is the Judaism which, as the Jewish Encyclopedia says, enabled the Jews to see “in the sanctuary the manifestation of God’s presence among His people, and the priest the vehicle of Divine grace, the mediator through whose ministry the sins of the community, as the individual, could be atoned for” (Vol. 4, p. 125). Hence no one in present-day Jewry functions with Divine authority, as did the priests in pre-Christian times.

Because I did not believe that God left man without a spiritual guide, a divinely authorized mediator; without an interpreter of His will, so necessary to assist man in the battle of life, on to an eternity of bliss.

Because I believed in the coming of a personal Messiah, as did the holy in Israel; as do the Orthodox Jews today who, unfortunately, are like people waiting for the bark in which to sail, that is already on its way to its destination without them. They do not realize that He came in the person of Jesus; that He is “God Himself,” Whom Isaiah, Israel’s foremost messianic prophet, said “will come and save you” (35:4).
 
ADDITIONAL REASONS

Dear Mr. Solomon: Additional reasons are here presented in answer to your query:—“What in Heaven made you, a Jew become a Catholic?” They will further enlighten you, I hope, and other Jews as well, who “glance at The Pilot now and then in the Public Library.” They are:

Because I believed Jesus proved to be the Messiah He claimed to be, in answer to the impassioned demand of High Priest Caiphas at the trial before the Jewish Court, when the claim caused Him to be convicted of blasphemy (St. Matt. 26:63).

Because I believed Jesus proved to be the Messiah by His teachings, works, life, death, resurrection, and the fulfillment of His prophecies.

Because I believed Jesus to be the personage Isaiah said the Messiah would be, the “Emmanuel, God with us” (7:14); “God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace” (Chap. 9). The “Preexistence of the (coming) Messiah before creation” and “after the creation of the world,” the Jewish Encyclopedia asserts to be Jewish teaching (Vol. 10, p. 183).

Because I believed in the “God with us,” the preexistent Messiah, Whom Mary, the Lily of Israel, brought into the world, is true God as well as true man; the second person of the Triune God. That meant to Catholics, and therefore to me, that God is one substance in three distinct Persons:—the Father Creator, the Son Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. This plural concept of the One True God I believed to have been in the mind of Moses when, in the Book of Genesis, he recorded that “God said let US (Elohim) make man in OUR image and likeness.” This plural name of God appears 2570 times in the Bible, whereas the singular (Eloah) is rare.

Because I believed in the following Old Testament scriptures, which must be accepted as of God to be a Jew in the religious sense of the term. They are the “scriptures” that Jesus told the Jews of Jerusalem gave “testimony” that He is the Messiah (St. John 5:39).

Because I believed in Old Testament description of the coming Messiah fitted Jesus, and Him only. He was born in Bethlehem, the City of David (Michaes 5:2); under the Star of Jacob (Num. 24:17); of the family of David (Paril. 17:]1-14); in the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10); at the exact time foretold of the coming of the Anointed One in the 9th chapter of Daniel. Jesus was to be adored by kings, who would come bearing gifts (Ps. 71:10), He was hailed with hosannas while riding on an ass (Zach. 9:9); falsely accused (Ps. 108:2-3); betrayed (Ps. 40); scourged and spat upon (Isa. 50:6); given gall and vinegar to drink (Ps. 68:22); led like a sheep to slaughter (Ps. 40:10); His hands and feet were to be pierced (Ps. 21:17); and crucified (Ps. 21:14-17). Yet His sepulcher was glorious, for, as Isaiah said, He would rise from the dead (Isa. 11:10), as He did.

“What in Heaven made me, a Jew, become a Catholic?” God is the answer, Who, speaking through Moses, called upon me, and you, and all the other Israelites in the world, to “harken to the prophet of thy nation (Israel)” who would be “like unto me” (Deut. 18:15). That prophet is Christ, Who proved to be more like Moses than any other person in the history of Israel. Both expounded basic religious principles; both were legislators; both wrought miracles; both were mediators between man and God the Father in Heaven; both were rejected by their people; and both ended their lives in apparent failure.
 
Yet, Jesus was greater than Moses, in that much taught by Moses was of a temporary nature, being binding only until their fulfillment by the coming prophet, Christ. Moses taught the thou shalt nots; Christ taught the blessed art thous, which may be called the negative and positive of Divine teachings. Moses spoke to God the Father in a cloud; Christ saw Him face to face. Moses revealed the nature of God, the “I Am What Am;” whereas Christ claimed to be the “I AM,” and proved it by His life teachings and works. Moses declared the terrors of sin; Christ saved from sin; Moses sinned; Christ was sinless; Moses offered the blood of beasts for sacrifice; Christ offered His Own Blood for sacrifice; Moses selected 12 spies (Num. 13); whereas Christ selected 12 Apostles; Moses selected Joshua as his successor; whereas Christ designated Peter as His Ambassador Plenipotentiary.

Moses brought a covenant obtained from God on Mt. Sinai for the children of Israel; whereas Christ, the “One Shepherd” whom Ezechiel said would come to shepherd a flock from all parts of the earth (34:23), instituted the new covenant foretold by Jeremiah, a universal covenant (31).

This new covenant, which was to succeed the Mosaic covenant, embodied a Church universal in character, which is the Catholic Church that Christ established. It took the place of the Church of an exclusive people, the children of Israel. Christ instituted a priesthood for His Church, a priesthood foretold to be according to the Order of Melchisedech (Ps. 109). It was to be—and is—a priesthood without regard to the lineage of its members. This priesthood was substituted by Christ for the geneological priesthood of Aaron, the sacrificial power and authority of which ended when the thick blue and purple and scarlet veil, hung in the Holy of Holies, was providentially rent from top to bottom (Exod. 26; St. Matt. 28:51).

I submit, My Dear Mr. Solomon, that an unbiased study of this lengthy reply to your query: “What in Heaven made you, a Jew, become a Catholic?” ought to convince you that it is belief in Old Testament Judaism, and not a repudiation of Judaism. It is love of the faith of Moses and the prophets, that is the intellectual and moral basis for graduating from the Synagogue to the Church. The matter herewith presented, taken largely from Jewish sources of the highest order, ought to convince you of the anomaly of remaining a lost sheep of Israel, instead of being incorporated into the Mystical Sheepfold, the Catholic Church, in which all that is great and glorious in Old Testament Judaism, in principle and prediction, manifests in its fullness.

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Evangelical and other Christian Leaders join Pope for Ecumenical Prayer Service

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Francis Beckwith resigned on May 5 as president of the Evangelical Theological Society. One week earlier the Baylor University philosophy professor rejoined the Roman Catholic Church, his home until age 14. He spoke with Christianity Today editor David Neff about the reaction to his decision, theological misconceptions, and evangelical strengths and weaknesses.

 

What good things from the evangelical community will you take back with you to Roman Catholicism?

A number of things. First, I think of the evangelical emphasis on the importance of Scripture. Much of what I see in the Catholic Church is formed by my evangelical experience. When I recite, for instance, the Apostles’ Creed, I think it’s more of a cognitive experience for me than with people who have been Catholic for some time. Emphasis on the written word comes from my evangelical background—that is, when I read these things, I’m really interested in what the text is saying, not just the mystical part, which is certainly also appropriate. For instance, after reading the Apostles’ Creed, I turned to my wife and I said, “You know, there are only two proper names in the creed—Pontius Pilate and Virgin Mary. I don’t know if anyone’s ever noticed that.”

I still consider myself an evangelical, but no longer a Protestant. I do think I have a better understanding of what sometimes the Catholic Church is trying to convey. Protestants often misunderstand. The issue of justification was key for me. The Catholic Church frames the Christian life as one in which you must exercise virtue—not because virtue saves you, but because that’s the way God’s grace gets manifested. As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn’t have a good enough incentive to do so. Now there’s a kind of theological framework, and it doesn’t say my salvation depends on me, but it says my virtue counts for something. It’s important to allow the grace of God to be exercised through your actions. The evangelical emphasis on the moral life forms my Catholic practice with an added incentive. That was liberating to me.

Some of the people who have been critical say, “You’ve gone into the oppressive works system of Catholicism.” That’s not the way I look at it at all. I look at it as a chance to do good. My own work apart from God’s grace doesn’t matter for my salvation; what matters is the sort of person I become by allowing God’s grace to work through my obeying his commandments and taking the sacraments. Unfortunately, the view of justification is sometimes presented clumsily by some Catholic laypeople.

What can an evangelical learn from the great tradition without giving up the genius of evangelicalism?

Much of Christian theology that we assume to be true, key doctrines such as the Trinity and the deity of Christ, were thought out quite a while ago through rigorous arguments and analysis and debate. Evangelicals kid themselves when they believe that they can re-invent the wheel with every generation, that you have to produce another spate of systematic theology textbooks to teach people the stuff that has already been articulated for generations. Not to say those things aren’t important. They are, and obviously you have to write these things depending upon the historical context. However, I do think we have to admit that the way that we read Scripture is through the ideas and concepts that have been passed down to us by a great tradition.

Look, you’re not going to come up with the Nicene Creed by just picking up the Bible. Does the Bible contribute to our understanding? Absolutely it does; the Nicene Creed is consistent with Scripture. But you needed a church that had a self-understanding in order to articulate that in any clear way. I am not saying that necessarily means that you have to be a Catholic. But we have to understand that the Reformation only makes sense against the backdrop of a tradition that was already there. Calvin and Luther did not go back and re-write Nicea. They took it for granted. There’s nothing wrong with conceding that and celebrating it and reading those authors. (more…)

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