There We Stood, Here We Stand – Eleven Lutherans Rediscover Their Catholic Roots
Trade Paperback/170 pages
. . . Drake (himself a
An underlying thread
. . . an excellent source
The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, standing resolutely before his accusers, is quoted as saying, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Likewise, each of the eleven individuals of this well-written collection of essays have taken a firm, vocal stance on his and her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Each convert's rationale to abandon Lutheranism makes for an engaging story concerning the social, financial, and political struggles of a person growing progressively more disillusioned with the church of their youth. Even more fascinating are the spiritual and intellectual reasons behind the individual's momentous, life-altering decision.
Catholic writer Timothy Drake (himself a former Lutheran) has chosen an interesting variety of individuals for this volume—six men and five women. Three of six men were ordained clergymen, with one eventually becoming an ordained priest. Even more intriguing is the fact that four of the five women essayists were fully ordained clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Each freely gave up her pastoral career, relinquishing her right to be a shepherd of a congregation ever again. Each claims to have found contentment in her choice.
The reasons given for conversion to Catholicism fall into several broad categories. A love of Catholic rituals and liturgy (including the transubstantiation of the Eucharist) is frequently alluded to along with taking a staunch pro-life stance, questioning the validity of ordaining practicing homosexuals within the ELCA, and opposing the use of artificial birth control methods. Some of the essayists were married to Catholics before their conversion, but none claim it as an overriding factor in the process.
The Lutheran doctrine of "Faith Alone, Scripture Alone" was a stumbling block at first to many in their acceptance of the Roman Catholic Magisterium and its interpretation of Scripture in light of tradition. Eventually, each convert came to embrace the authority of the Papacy and the assertions of all of its appointed teachers and leaders in the church. The veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints also proved challenging to these former Protestants. However, each came to an understanding that the Catholic traditions surrounding Mary did not necessarily usurp the central role of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. All felt with their conversion that they had come "home to Rome," returning to Christ's one true church on earth at last.
An underlying thread of apprehension winds itself through many of these individual's stories. "The more Catholic I became, the less confessionally and morally sound became the ELCA," says former pastor Patricia Ireland as she describes her disillusionment with the ELCA's pro-choice and pro-homosexual position. Born Catholic, Ireland states, "I felt utter sorrow and repentance over my dissenting Catholic years and my eventual break, yet I turned to God in hope of receiving his mercy."
When asked by Catholics and Lutherans alike how she could think of giving up her pulpit, Jennifer Ferrara says, "For Catholics to have faith is to be obedient to the faith. . . . Over time, I have come to see the all male priesthood as essential to the faith of the Church."
Former Missouri Synod Lutheran Todd von Kampen says of his own conversion process, "It (was) less a matter of giving up my Lutheran beliefs than coming to understand how Catholic so many of them really (are)."
There We Stood, Here We Stand is an excellent source book for those considering joining the Roman Catholic church, particularly those coming from the Lutheran tradition. Others interested in church history, tradition, and the commonality of belief will find much to ponder in these enlightening essays as well.
Reviewer: Cindy Appel