Question: if you left the RCC because of Vatican II, how did you make it in the Evangelical Church?
Fair question. Here’s a summary.
I’m an Englishman – a Londoner, born and bred (I’m a 1949 model). My mother and father were both Catholics. I’m the eldest of five children and we were all brought up in the Catholic faith. My dad was an informed and knowledgeable Catholic who knew what he believed and why he believed it.
I rejected the faith of my father in my early teens. I stopped attending Mass around 1962. In 1966 I joined the British Army. I returned to Civvy Street in 1971, made up with my dad, and decided to go back to Catholicism. And so one Sunday morning I went to Mass with my old Roman Missal in my hand.
Very soon after the Mass began I realized it wasn’t like any Mass I’d ever attended. My Missal, which contained the rite of Mass as it once had been, was of no use at all. I was amazed at what I saw and heard! Not only was the priest saying the Mass in English but he was also facing the congregation with his back to the altar and conducting all his business on a wooden table. In addition, all the words of the prayers were different. I left that church at the end of Mass feeling very dazed and very shaken. I even checked the sign outside thinking I might perhaps have walked into a Protestant church by mistake. But, no, it was definitely a Catholic church. What had happened? What did it mean? The whole thing was baffling.
What had happened, of course, was the Second Vatican Council. I hadn’t set foot inside a Catholic church for about 8 years so I was, in a sense, living in the past. I’d therefore been confronted with the accumulated
changes. It was as if I’d experienced a blitzkrieg
, which meant that I couldn’t fail to see a vivid contrast between the “before” and the “after.” Those Catholics who’d been fed the changes piecemeal could never have seen what I’d seen.
I did my best to adapt but found it impossible. My dad went to his grave in 1979 and the last years of his life were very sad from a spiritual standpoint as he struggled to accept within the Catholic Church what had been formally condemned prior to Vatican 2. I attempted to rediscover the One True Church via the SSPX just after Father Black took over from Father Morgan (I believe Father Morgan ran off with some woman) and although I was very impressed with, and much influenced by, Michael Davies, I couldn’t sustain the effort and around 1982 (or thereabouts) I walked away in disgust from religion of any kind.
I came to live in the States in 1990 (I married an American) and my conversion to Evangelical Christianity ten years later was quite remarkable in that there was enough about the whole thing to convince me that God was calling me away from the pointlessness of a life with no spiritual content. I had found myself surrounded by Evangelicals from the time I moved stateside (to the Bible Belt) and I became particularly disgusted toward the end of the 1990s when the prevailing topic for them was President Clinton’s private life. The anti–Clinton diatribes seemed to me to be multitude. Initially, as I read and heard the mean–spirited insults, I felt only irritated. But as the tirades persisted I began to develop a deep dislike for Evangelicals. I decided that they were very unpleasant and unkind people whose hearts were as cold as any stone. They didn’t have one good word to say about anybody. They certainly didn’t have any respect for the President of the United States. If he were as evil as they kept insisting then how come they weren’t praying for him instead of besmirching his name in public? What awful people!
I used to contribute letters to the local newspaper and I took great pleasure in declaring my objection to the Evangelical stance but one day not long after one of my letters was published in the newspaper (in which I’d set out to defend and endorse the First Amendment) I received in the mail a letter from an Evangelical thanking me for what I'd written in my letter to the editor and inviting to come visit her church. I wasn’t exactly keen to go but to refuse the invitation seemed discourteous so I went. Of course, in my mind, I’d built up a very negative caricature of what Evangelicals were like and it was a bit traumatic to find that it didn’t hold up. I'd been looking forward to going home and telling my wife what obnoxious appalling people they really were but in the event I had to tell her that they were very pleasant and quite likeable (the latter trait being particularly annoying). Well, after that, I discovered that I couldn’t be quite so smug and pugilistic in my letters to the editor and I ended up going back to that church with some vague notion of finding out where they’d hidden the bigots. And some six months later I joined that church and became an enthusiastic and committed Evangelical.
In doing so, I firmed up my view that the Catholic Church wasn’t the One True Church after all. Indeed, given the Novus Ordo Missae
with its obvious concessions to Protestantism, there appeared to be a strong case for concluding that the Protestants had been right all the time. And as Protestantism was a movement and not a Church it seemed reasonable to conclude that there was no such thing as the One True Church.
However, after some five years as an Evangelical the Sunday morning worship at the Evangelical Church I was attending turned into a theater performance and I was forced out. It was at that time that I first began to consider Holy Orthodoxy. I’d met an Orthodox Christian through my work some three years earlier – he was the father of a woman I’d been working with and she thought we could be friends. Not long after I was introduced to him he developed cancer and was given a year to live. I’d visit him and we’d talk about lots of things including religion and that’s how I gained a small insight into Orthodoxy. At the end, just before the hospice moved in, he liked to lay quietly on his bed and listen to me read the Bible to him. He preferred the King James Version describing the language as “majestic.”
Well, with some slight knowledge of Orthodoxy and with much dissatisfaction at what was happening inside the American Evangelical world, I began to wrestle with where I ought to be spiritually. It took me some time. I did consider going back to Catholicism because I was struggling with the administrative discord present in Orthodoxy and even more so with the Orthodox understanding of salvation. But I’m over all those struggles now and can look back on them with circumspection.
With my Evangelical presuppositions, I've made sense of my journey like this. Whereas the Catholic Church has produced the Reformation and all its attendant cacophony the Orthodox Church has not. Whereas the Catholic Church needed to update its approach and its worship the Orthodox Church doesn’t change and the Divine Liturgy is ethereal. In subtle ways the Divine Liturgy reminds me of the reverence and mystery that was intrinsic to the Tridentine rite of Mass and which was so dear to my dad. God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. At last I’m now able to worship in that way. So I’m content. As far as I can tell I’ve reached the end of my spiritual journey. In turning to Holy Orthodoxy I’ve been able to revive my hope and belief in the One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and I see no reason why I should not now work my way through the catechumenate and go on to be received into the Church and then live out the rest of my days embracing and upholding the ancient faith thereby giving glory to God in all things.