For Anglican converts to Catholicism like me, this whole year as been a déjà vu experience. When it comes to the Amazon Synod, and the ridiculous proposals being discussed in Rome this month, I can honestly say I’ve been there, brought the t-shirt, and quickly left — TWENTY YEARS AGO!
The term déjà vu is of French origin and literally translates into English as “already seen,” but the meaning conveys a feeling, or sense, that one has lived through a certain experiences already before. We’ve all had that experience, you know when one has a sudden sense that something seems so familiar that one gets the feeling it already happened, and that one is reliving it a second time. Who knows what causes it? Some medical researchers think it’s actually a temporary neurological disorder, brought on by certain chemicals, that cause a momentary frontal lobe epileptic firing of the neurons in such a way as to attach present experiences to memory centers of the brain prematurely, almost like an “echo” in the brain, where the brain’s perception of the experience is recorded twice at the same time, once in the present and again in memory. This creates the feeling or sensation that one has already experienced a present event. Honestly, I think more often than not it’s just the experience of highly perceptive people who have a subconscious recognition that history really does repeat itself. My priest and I recently had a conversation in which I commented: “Some say that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, but in my experience those who do know history are doomed to helplessly watch in horror as others repeat it.” That’s the exact sensation I’m having right now as I watch this Amazon Synod in Rome unfold.
So let me take you on a trip down memory lane, my memories of course, because I don’t know yours. Here we go…
In 1997, I was an Evangelical Protestant. I had been a practicing Evangelical since about 1990. Evangelicalism was the natural destination for me as a young adult. My family came from mixed Protestant denominations. My father was a Lutheran (LCMS). My mother was a Southern Baptist (SBC). While they were married in my father’s church, and I was baptized there at about one-year old, my mother didn’t care for my father’s religion. So my father tried her church and didn’t like her’s either. They continued to search for a new church home until I was about 5 or 6. They eventually compromised and settled on an American Baptist Church (ABC), commonly called “Northern Baptists,” and yes, there is such a thing. These are Protestants who subscribe to Baptist doctrine but have a more Methodist style of liturgical worship. So in practical application, I was raised in a quasi-Methodist/Baptist church. As a young adult in 1988-1990 I felt my own Christian experience lacking, and the church of my childhood slipping away as the congregation increasingly grew old with no sign of younger families replacing the elderly. So I did what a lot of young people did at that time. I left. I eventually found an Evangelical expression of Protestantism that I could relate to. It was called Calvary Chapel, and this is a “nondenominational affiliation” (yes, I know that’s a contradiction) that was very popular on the West Coast at that time. The particular affiliation I started at was in West Covina, close to my childhood home, but it eventually moved to Golden Springs Drive in Diamond Bar, California. It was here I got most of my early formation as a Christian. For the first time I heard basic theology (Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, etc.) preached in a clear and concise manner. I poured myself into it, attending many church classes (almost nightly) and doing Scripture studies for hours at home. By the time I moved to the Ozarks in 1994, my new bride and I were ready to start a young adult ministry at our local Calvary Chapel in Springfield, Missouri.
I was studying to become a pastor, and my local pastor was eager to help. He directed my education for a while, preparing to send me back to California for more formal training in the Calvary Chapel Bible college and seminary. However, something happened, and I aborted the plan on my own. I had begun studying Church history and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. This led me to the conclusion that the early Church was far more liturgical than what was common to the Evangelical experience of the 1990s. For some time, I had felt like there was something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it right away. What I discovered is that church had become almost an entertainment experience, like going to a movie or watching a concert. The typical Evangelical worship service consisted of some contemporary music, which we were all encouraged to follow along in, but lets face it, the praise band is the main focus of the music. In that sense it’s sort of like going to a concert. Then what follows is about 30 to 40 minutes of sermon, which is just quietly listening. This is followed by another 5 to 10 minutes of music and you’re done. Yes, the congregation participates in the whole thing by clapping to the music, occasionally singing along, saying “Amen” to the pastor’s prayers, and maybe walking to the front of the chapel during the “altar call” (which is really a “pulpit call” to be technically accurate). Communion is usually only served once a month, in which the congregation remains in their pews while crackers and grape juice are served in little plates. They all receive these elements together, at the same time, when the pastor gives the word. That’s it. That’s about all the participation the congregation has. This seemed inconsistent to my historical understanding of liturgy in both the ancient Jewish and Christian experience. In many ways, the Evangelical way of doing Church is very “modern” and “invented.” When I came to understand this, I pulled out of Evangelical ministry training, and began looking for a more liturgical worship model. My wife joined me in this search.
My wife and I attended many different churches together: most of them Methodist and Lutheran. In the end, we found what seemed like the perfect answer to our prayers. It was a small Episcopal (Anglican) church on the east side of Springfield. Here we could explore the liturgical aspects of Christianity in what we believed to be a “good, safe, Protestant environment.” What we didn’t realize, at first, was that our “good and safe” environment was an aberration. This particular Episcopal parish was moderately conservative, in a moderately conservative diocese, situated in a very liberal national denomination. Our parish had a female deacon, but a male priest. The deaconess was nice enough, and we liked her, but my wife and I were firmly rooted in Scripture from our Evangelical experience. We knew that it’s unbiblical to have a woman in an ordained position within the Church, but we were willing to overlook it, since we figured we would not use her for any personal sacraments (such as baptism and confirmation of our children for example). What we came to find out over time, however, was that the national denomination had not only ordained female priestesses but female bishopesses as well. Furthermore, a good number of Episcopal priests were homosexual. So I spent a good deal of time researching the national denomination (ECUSA) and debating with other Anglicans as to which way the denomination should go in the future. I allied with groups of Anglicans who were fighting for a return to tradition. I made these concerns known to my priest, and for the most part, he agreed with me. He fought hard to stop these liberal advances from making their way into our diocese. I was highly appreciative of him for that, and I am still grateful to him to this very day, even though I am no longer an Anglican.
My wife and I were essentially members of a Protestant denomination that was very Catholic in appearance, especially in liturgy and sacraments, but very Protestant in approach to moral theology. Essentially, what we were witnessing was the beginning of a schism in the works, between liberal Episcopalians and conservative Anglicans. Had we stuck around, we would have most certainly participated in the schism as it unfolded in the Springfield area. I know exactly where we would be now had we stayed. We would have become members of a conservative Anglican church (ACNA) on the southeast side of Springfield that is now separated from The Episcopal Church national denomination.
There was a problem though. My Evangelical ministry training made it very clear that I should not cause or participate in schisms. This is one of the reasons why my wife and I quietly left our Evangelical church without causing a seen or making trouble. We just quietly disappeared. I notified our pastor, but that was it. So when faced with a national schism in The Episcopal Church, and how it would most certainly play out in this strongly conservative region of Missouri, I knew that there would be no way for my wife and I to avoid becoming prominent figures in this schism locally. We were young, and just getting ready to start a family. The last thing I wanted to do was drag my wife and future kids through a local denominational schism, nor did I want to be thought of as a “player” in this schism. Furthermore, my wife hates attracting a lot of attention, or being in the middle of any kind of political, social or religious conflict. So, once again, my wife and I did when we had done just a couple years before. We quietly left our little Episcopal church. I notified our pastor and we just disappeared quietly. This happened in 2000. That same year we joined the Catholic Church.
In 2004, my predictions came true with the election of Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in The Episcopal Church. Robinson left his wife and children to pursue a homosexual relationship with another man. Robinson’s homosexuality was celebrated by liberal Episcopalians and this set into motion the firestorm that would eventually lead to the schism I predicted would happen, which is now the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). My poor wife and I (along with our coming two children) would have been embroiled in the middle of this disaster, had we stayed, and found ourselves as founding members of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield. It would have been very trying for me, impossible for my wife, and cruel to put my children through. In the end, it would have paid off, and we would have been in a much bigger parish as a result, but the process of getting there would have been too much for us. For this reason, I’m glad we quietly left The Episcopal Church when we did.
We chose the Catholic Church because it had all of the liturgy and sacraments we had become accustomed to, and came to love, in The Episcopal Church. However, the Catholic Church had something The Episcopal Church didn’t have. It had the pope, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which had safely kept its doctrine morally conservative for 2,000 years. Here, so we thought, we found a safe place to grow our marriage and raise our children.
Such was the case for the last 20 years. My oldest, now 16, has a strong Catholic upbringing. My youngest, now 13, has the same. I’m grateful to the Catholic Church for the strong moral stand its taken during this time period, particularly for its faithfulness to Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were an inspiration to my family, as were our local bishops and priests. When the Ordinariate for former Anglicans was formed, in 2012, my family joined and we’ve been extremely grateful for the strong faithfulness of our Ordinariate priest and bishop both in traditional Catholic morality and Anglican heritage. It’s the best of both worlds, and in my opinion, the best possible situation for my family during these trying times.
So it’s strange to see what’s going on in Rome this month, with the Amazon Synod, and the bizarre happenings there. Witnessing the Pagan rituals celebrated on Vatican soil was shocking, to say the least. What are we to make of all this?
- A call for Catholics to “learn” from the Pagan Amazonians.
- A call to integrate environmentalism into the Church’s gospel teaching.
- An introduction of new ecological sins.
- An advancement of “Liberation Theology” (whitewashed Marxism).
- The admission of women to ordination, starting with the diaconate, and then eventually moving up to presbytery (priesthood), and eventually even (maybe) bishopric?
- The admission of the viri probati (older “proven men”) in greater numbers to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.
Of all these proposals, only the last one (viri probati) is orthodox and tolerable to Faithful Catholics. The rest are a joke. While the fifth (admission of women to ordination) isn’t even possible. Any attempt to do so would be a schismatic act, according to official Catholic teaching, which cannot be changed (not even by the pope).
This is where the déjà vu happens for me. I feel like I’ve been here before. Ah, that’s right, I have. A fairly large faction of the Catholic Church’s leadership is trying to follow in the footsteps of many Anglican churches, ordaining women to the clergy. We know that some in Church leadership promote homosexuality. This has been going on for a while, and we saw a push to include that in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family back in 2014. It flopped. However, this ordination of women seems to be a major theme at the Amazon Synod this year, and that seems like déjà vu to me.
Many of my brothers and sisters in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter are former Anglicans who fled from The Episcopal Church to Rome, at various times over the last few decades. My wife and I joined the Catholic Church back in 2000, long before the Ordinariate was officially formed. We, like many other former Anglicans, were incardinated into it later. Others came into it directly, after is was formed in 2012, and many of them with their entire parishes at the same time. All of us left The Episcopal Church at various times. Those that came from more Anglo-Catholic denominations, like the ACA for example, left The Episcopal Church decades ago, immediately following the ordination of women to the Anglican priesthood. Those that came from the ACNA left The Episcopal Church after the episcopal consecration of Gene Robinson back in 2004. We’ve all dealt with this before. I bet we’re all feeling a little sense of déjà vu right now. We thought we had gotten away from this kind of nonsense, but no, here it is right in front of us again. So now what?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know how I feel about it. How do I feel? I’ll tell you how I feel, and I bet it’s the same way a lot of us feel right now. I am tired. I’m not disillusioned, nor am I unresolved. I know exactly what my objectives are, and what I have to do to attain them. But that doesn’t change how tired I feel. I’m tired of running away from Modernism. I’ve spent a lifetime doing that. I’m done now. There comes a time when running is no longer the answer, when there is nowhere left to go, and all there is left to do is stand and fight. So that’s what I’ve been doing ever since I started this blog, and I absolutely will not stop until either this fight is done, or I am, whichever comes first. Whichever comes first, I will finally be fighting for a Church worth fighting for, and a faith worth dying for. So to those on the liberal Left in the Church, to the so-called “Team Francis” out there, bring it! I’m not leaving the Catholic Church, and I’m not changing either. I don’t care what kind of ridiculous document this Amazon Synod puts out today. I’ll go through it, once it’s released, and if there is anything Catholic in there at all, I’ll applaud it. But if there is anything in there that is non-Catholic, or even anti-Catholic, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll excoriate it here in the pages of this blog, and you can be sure I’ll not only ignore such things in my personal life, but I’ll tell other Catholics to do the same. There is only one way the Church is ever going to get rid of a guy like me, and I’m not the only one. I think we all know what this is coming to, and frankly, I don’t care. Come at me, bro! If you want to get rid of me, you’ll have to excommunicate me. Excommunicate me for being an orthodox, faithful and devout Catholic. Because I’m not going anywhere on my own. I’m willing to dedicate what’s left of my life toward being the biggest pain in the ass I can possibly be to Liberal Leftists in the Catholic Church. I believe that’s the only way I’ll be able to shake this nagging feeling of déjà vu.