How in the world did I end up here?

How In World Did I End Up Here

I was not leaving my lifelong church tradition. That was already gone. I was leaving what it became and where it was going. I had not resigned, quit, made some sort of protest statement, stamped my feet, or pounded my fist on a table – but in my heart I was no longer there.

It is still sad, but leaving and being unconnected can also be empowering. To remove the chains of self-identity we place on ourselves gives us the opportunity to make adult, reasoned and informed decisions. A chance to take stock and ask hard questions, even uncomfortable questions, with eyes wide open. Questions like “who am I?”, “what do I believe?” and “what have I been missing?.”

I made lists…   what I want in a church…   what my options were…   how close of a match to my beliefs. If churches were engaged in internal liberal vs. conservative schisms, which side was in my area. That sort of analysis.

It didn’t take long to come up with a short list. One-by-one I eliminated candidates for one reason or another. Some had theologies too foreign to my faith. Some were zooming down the same liberal road my church was on. Some were just not in my area. Not all great reasons but that was my flawed process. It left me with one viable “candidate” – the Catholic Church.

I say candidate because I was by no means sure. Compared to many converts, my flavor of Protestantism was comparably close theologically. I probably knew more about Catholicism than most Protestants. Many friends and others very close to me are Catholic. I respected them and their evangelism by example.

That said, I was not Catholic and had no intention of ever becoming Catholic. Ever. There are many things I considered to be issues, such as an infallible Pope and a rigid hierarchy. Priests not allowed to marry. 2,000 years of history and not all of it something to brag about. Prayers I didn’t know and changes to those I did. Strangeness like statues, a preference for a crucifix vs. the empty cross of our risen Lord, an obsessive focus on Mary, genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. Those people even have additional books in their Bibles! Really, I could go on and on (and probably will in future posts).

As improbable and surprising as it was to me, the Holy Spirit led me here anyway. I prayed for an open mind and an open heart. That prayer was answered and my Protestant prejudices were put aside. I spent hundreds of hours (probably more) “researching,” finding out what Catholics really believe, addressing every “issue” one-by-one.

Wow. Really, wow! I had no idea just how mistaken I was. Some things I thought were issues were just misconceptions. Some are in reality huge strengths. The more I dug, the more I learned, the more impressed I became. There will probably always be items on my “to be explored” list, but a funny thing happens. After a while, after reading the catechism, after researching and studying topic after topic, after seeing how logical and faithful the Church is, after changing your long-held position on this and that – you begin to give the Church the benefit of any doubt. This is a part of what Catholics call “conversion” – not a label, not what you proclaim, but of heart.

There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, 1938

Reflecting back now I see my whole approach was wrong. I was shopping for a church that fit my beliefs. Fairly arrogant, is it not? I should have started at the source and followed where His teaching led. It’s really pretty obvious.

This blog is about one Journey and what was learned and continues to be learned along the way. For those looking for the bottom line: the Catholic Church is not another Christian denomination. It is the Church Jesus founded. It teaches the deposit of faith He taught. Its organization was planned by Jesus and has a mission to preserve and teach that faith – not evolve it to fit society’s ever changing frailties. The Catholic Church has an amazing depth and fullness of tradition developed over 2,000 years yet is an unchanged faith as taught directly by our Lord. This is His Church; it is the truth and the way.

Intrigued? Want to know more right now? Have 5 minutes? View the video at

This is my Conversion Story, part 2 of 4. Please also see:

How I came to be an ex-Protestant

How I Came To Be Ex Protestant

I have many fond memories growing up in my church, part of a mainstream Protestant denomination. Our congregation was small but tight-knit. Our church building was of an older, majestic style located in a small city that once saw greater numbers on Sunday. My parents were married there. My brother and I were baptized there.

While no one would have called us “bible thumpers,” we were quietly religious. We went to church on Sunday, served as acolytes and ushers, went to Sunday School, attended Vacation Bible School, went to catechism classes, were confirmed, said grace before dinner, said prayers at bedtime and tried to live our faith.

After I married and moved away, we connected with a mission church of my denomination. It would be closer to our new home than our other already established churches in the area. We had a young, enthusiastic Pastor building a new church literally from the ground up. It was exciting to watch us grow, meet new people, make new friends and continually expand.

Things were changing nationally for my denomination. We were consolidating into a larger organization and locally we grew with people from varied church backgrounds. This made us “successful” but less focused. People joined with little or no instruction in what “we” historically believed. Our faith at the pew level became increasingly diluted.

Like many Protestant denominations, our formal faith was for the most part Bible based. Also like many Protestant denominations, the Bible was interpreted by our church leaders who met annually to democratically vote on matters of organization and faith. This is where we got into trouble – faith being pliable and voting democratically on “what we believe.” It is a very important topic and one I will explore in a later post.

There were changes over the years. A big one was the addition of women pastors. Another was the move to an “open communion” where all baptized people are welcome to receive regardless of their understanding of the Eucharist. There were many smaller ones too. We became more flexible and politically correct. These changes were unsettling but I didn’t focus on them and had faith in my church. It was, after all, an important part of me.

Eventually our founding Pastor moved on, leaving a large, thriving church – quite an accomplishment from the days he went door-to-door inviting people to join our forming mission. The loss of a much loved, founding pastor is hard on any church, and it was for us too. While we struggled, I held in there. Eventually I knew we would get over this rough spot and besides, this was my church. Being a member of this denomination would forever remain an important part of who I am. I am not a quitter when things get difficult.

We felt at home and have friends at church. If, heaven forbid, things did not improve I could reluctantly move to another church of my denomination. There were more in our area now. That would only be a last resort. Regardless, I would be in my denomination until my last breath.

Looking back now and at what I wrote above, the one thing missing in all of this hand-wringing, personal identity crisis, belonging and travel distance considerations is an emphasis on underlying faith. I was not asking myself if my church was teaching the faith Jesus taught the Apostles or questioning if they were putting words in His mouth. As a Protestant I certainly was not asking if I was a direct member of the Church HE founded. Nope. I just needed to tough it out, to maintain the status quo, not spend the time to ask tough questions or really discern the truth.

Then God whacked me on the head. An unmistakable wakeup call I could no longer ignore. My denomination took even more liberal, politically correct steps – leaps really. I realized I simply could not accept what my church now teaches.

At first I could not believe the news. I searched online to see if it was really true and found it was. I became angry, then disappointed, and finally sad. Sad because I knew at that moment my denomination had abandoned our faith. The faith I grew up with. My faith. Sure, to ease us into the new thinking individual local churches were not “forced” to immediately implement anything different, but the direction was clear.

As we moved further and faster in this “liberal” direction, more like-minded people would be attracted and more “conservative” folks like myself would fall away. It is a self-reinforcing, closed loop. There was no reasonable hope this would be undone. Quite the contrary, our changing faith was destined to “keep up with the times.” There are those who think that is a good thing.

For the first time in my life my heart told me I was no longer a member of that denomination. I was truly without a church home and cast adrift. It is very lonely out there when your church family takes a new path that leaves you behind.

This is my Conversion Story, part 1 of 4. Please also see:

Some notes: First, I decided not to be more specific in this post than “my denomination.” Most mainstream Protestant denominations are going down this unfortunate path. Second, in the context of religion, “liberal” and “conservative” have nothing to do with political parties. For me liberal means flexible, changing faith and conservative means holding true to the unchanging word of God.