Current Page: Opinion | Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Kirsten Powers and Protestants Becoming Catholics

Kirsten Powers and Protestants Becoming Catholics

Kirsten Powers at the "Faith, Culture & Religious Freedom in the 21st Century" symposium, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2013. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

No, I'm not converting, although I enjoyed my 1983 visit to the Vatican. But Friday, columnist Kirsten Powers announced on Fox News that she was joining the Catholic Church. Not many years ago she moved from non-belief to Evangelical Christianity, and she has been attending an Anglican church with friends of mine.

Mark Tooley is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

Many Catholics on social media have hospitably welcomed here. From a Protestant stance, her move from one church to another neither adds to nor subtracts from God's Kingdom. May He continue to bless her faith.

Presumably she will explain her faith transition. As a political liberal who is more traditional on moral and social issues, she very likely admires the current Pope and appreciates Catholic social teaching. In Washington, D.C., and in wider intellectual circles, conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism are not uncommon. There is a thirst for the intellectual resources and historic continuity of Catholicism, amplified by Mainline Protestantism's collapse and modern Evangelicalism's lack of a rich tradition.

My own IRD will soon announce an initiative that we hope will, in some way, help stimulate serious Protestant thought in one important public policy area.

Of course, many others are working to restore Protestant/Evangelical intellectual life, grounding it more seriously in historic Christian thought. Generic Evangelicalism, thanks partly to the decline of denominational loyalties and traditions, is too often disconnected from the Body of Christ prior to modern memory.

For better or worse, I've never considered leaving my own lifelong Methodism, despite my own denomination's failures, divisions and absurdities. As I once explained, only half kiddingly, to a skeptical post denominational Millennial, Methodism to my own mind represents the highest form of Christian thought and practice.

More seriously, I've always considered my Methodism, as hopefully all Christians regard their church affiliation, a matter of calling. God placed me there according to His purpose. More selfishly, or lazily, perhaps, I simply, after a lifetime of Methodist worship, don't feel fully comfortable in other traditions. In more liturgical churches I get impatient with all the readings. In less liturgical churches, I'm impatient with the lack of structure. It's a matter of habit, rather than theological conviction, probably.

Charles de Gaulle once grandiosely but significantly explained his Catholicism as the result of history and geography. Americans are preoccupied by individual choice, but actually we are all the fruit of some destiny transmitting through the actions of our ancestors. Most of my ancestors were Scots-Irish Presbyterians, English Anglicans and French Huguenots who later became Methodist. The Anglo-Protestant experience has guided my spiritual and intellectual formation.

Catholicism has to me always seemed a little exotic and mysterious, from my earliest boyhood, when I could smell the incense outside the Catholic church down the street. I've long regarded the papacy as I do the English monarchy: not for me, but appreciative for it, admiring of it, and wishing it success in a world too often bereft of moral legacy and ballast.

Currently I'm crafting legislation about the church's ethical teachings for the next United Methodist governing General Conference. Mostly I'm relying on help from Catholic resources about assisted suicide, theology of marriage and body, and the vocation of the state, for which I'm grateful. The Catholic Church's insights from across the centuries are gifts to all, and Protestants/Evangelicals should not hesitate to attribute credit, while also working harder to enrich our own theological and moral understandings.

Whatever strengthens one part of the Body of Christ contributes to the vitality of the whole Body.

This article was originally posted here

Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He attends a United Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Mark on Twitter @markdtooley.