A Journey Home to the Catholic Faith and What We Can Learn.

A recent announcement of journey home to the Catholic Faith was made by the well known pro-life advocate Bryan Kemper. His announcement letter is posted below. Not only can we rejoice to have a fine and prophetic new member, but, in reading his letter, we can also see certain hallmarks that have led him to the Church. The things he mentions are also things others have mentioned. I would also like to discuss something he does NOT mention.

First here is the letter he sent to his supporters on his blog. I have taken the liberty of adding a few reflections which appear in plain text red.

Dear friends,

I know this may come as a shock to many of you; I am in shock in a way my self. I have spent the past 23 years living my life for Christ always wanting to serve Him and know His truth.

I have been a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for almost 10 years as I was so inspired by the liturgy and reverence I found there. I have also been in a constant journey for God’s truth, studying His Word as well as church history. After many, many years of resisting a calling that I tried to suppress I have finally felt the peace of God with my decision to join the Catholic Church. Please note his reference to being inspired by the liturgy and reverence in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I want to comment on that below.

I know that many of you will be confused, even concerned for me. I know that you will have many questions and even be tempted to try and dissuade me from this decision. While I will most certainly talk to you about what God is doing here, I will not be entering into any debates about this right now.

I want to let you know this is not made lightly; I fought against this for years. There are several things that led me to search and finally choose to go back to the Church. I will share a few things in brief here and would love to sit down in person some time with you if you want to peacefully discuss them in more detail.

Every true spiritual journey is marked by profound consideration and often painful discernment. He clearly has love for the traditions which have nourished and sustained him and cannot lightly leave that behind. I have made this journey with others who have joined the Catholic Church and found that their love and appreciation for what has sustained them and is an important  aspect of the gifts they bring to the Church. The Church is wonderfully enriched by the fact that they do not cast aside what they have received in the past, but rather that they transpose and apply it to the Catholic setting. For there is great zeal, love and knowledge of Scripture, a fine tradition of preaching, hymnody, an appreciation for a personal walk with the Lord, and countless other gifts in the Protestant traditions. We are indeed enriched by those who join us.

Church authority: There are simply thousands and thousands of denominations and every time someone disagrees with another teaching of their church they simply start a new one. The Catholic Church has had it’s teaching since the beginning of the Church in the scriptures. There is no way God can be happy with thousands of denominations or so-called non-denominational churches. It seems that when people disagree on doctrine it often results in another break off church. The fact is that current Christian teaching can differ so much between two churches that it really constitutes different religions and different Gods. There must be one established truth that God gave us, one that has remained from the time of Christ.

We have talked a lot about this in this blog. It is the chief problem with the Protestant approach. When no one is Pope, everyone is Pope and there are no real ways of resolving difficulties and the conflicts that inevitably happen when two or more human beings are together. One of the glories of the Catholic Church has been her integrity in terms of authority and unity in terms of doctrine.

There are, to be sure, squabbles among the faithful as to emphasis and direction. But when the problem is doctrinal, or the non-doctrinal debates become too divisive, we DO have a way of ultimately resolving it and remaining in a coherent unity.

Some of the older, main-line Protestant denominations were able to keep this for a time when Scripture’s authority and veracity were unquestioned. But in recent decades, the main-line denominations no longer agree on authority of Scripture in terms of its plain meaning, and the differing views have caused major ruptures in the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian branches. It is most often the moral questions, such as homosexuality and abortion, that prove most problematic. And without Scripture, tradition and authority the severing into ever wider varieties is inevitable.

Mr. Kemper could not have said it better than when he speaks of there being one established truth that has remained intact since the time of Christ.

Pro-life and Contraception: There is only one church that has been consistent from the time of Christ to today on the teaching of pro—life and contraception. Before 1930 there was never a single Christian church in history to accept any form of contraception and today there is only one that absolutely has kept this Christian teaching and truth.

Praise God for this insight. The Catholic Church has often been excoriated for not keeping up with the times. But of course, as Mr. Kemper notes, this is not the role of the Church. Rather, she is to consistently hold to the truths that come to us from Christ through the Apostles. Though sorely tempted by her own members to update in terms of contraception and, to some extent, abortion, the Church has held firm to what she has received.

In terms of pro-life issues, you may recall that we discussed on this blog some time ago what David French, a well known Protestant author said of the Catholic Church: for almost forty years has been the beating heart of the American pro-life movement….One cannot spend five minutes with thoughtful Catholics without understanding how the defense of life is a fundamental and integral part of the DNA of the church. Since the defense of life is theologically-grounded, it is functionally and practically independent of any secular ideology. Life is not just an “issue,” for a Catholic; it is at the core of the Gospel. [1]

Yes, dedication to pro-life issues and holding firm on the teaching about contraception are two glories of the Church. And, it is important to see that this sort of prophetic stance is winning new members for us, members who bring great gifts and zeal with them. We ought not fear being prophetic and zealous lovers of life. God is both renewing us and blessing us with new members like Bryan Kemper.

Communion or the Eucharist: I have always believed that communion was more that just a symbol and in looking back at early church teaching it is crystal clear that this was taught from day one. St Ignatius of Antioch a student of John the Apostle taught on this and clarified it well.

Here too is the central glory of the Catholic Church, that we unvaryingly hold to the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I cannot tell you how many have come to the Church or returned to her on this count. The Scriptures could not be clearer on this point and, as Mr. Kemper notes, the Church Fathers also held it from day one. What a magnificent glory it is that we have Christ truly present in our tabernacles and truly receive him in Holy Communion. To remain devoted to Christ in the Eucharist is surely a necessary requirement for the Church if we want the Lord to bless us with new members.

These are just a few of the things that drew me back into the Catholic Church; however there is so much more. I was baptized Catholic as a child so the process is not as complicated for me. I will be starting RCIA classes and working towards confirmation.

I am asking my friends to pray for my family’s journey and me as I truly seek to be closer to Christ. My relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life and I hope my friends will stand by me, as I grow closer to Him.

As for the work of Stand True; it will remain focused on educating, activating and equipping young to stand up for life and Christ. We have always been an organization that reaches out to and works with all Christians and we will remain true to that. A great work he is doing.

For Christ I stand,

Bryan Kemper

The original statement is found here: Journey Home

So, there is much to be grateful for here. Clearly the beauty, and the integrity of the Church on many issues continues to inspire new members to join us.

I would like to mention something Mr. Kemper did not say and ponder for a moment the possible meaning of it. You will note above that he said: I have been a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for almost 10 years as I was so inspired by the liturgy and reverence I found there. Among the things he did not list, as his reason for joining the Catholic Church, was the inspiration and reverence related to the liturgy. It may well be that he did not discuss this for the sake of brevity. But I wonder if we might not perhaps be willing to learn why the liturgical experience did not make the list?

The fact is that too much Catholic liturgy today comes across as neither inspiring nor reverent. There is nothing wrong with our liturgy in essence. It is the glorious Mass handed on to us by Christ and the Apostles. But the way we celebrate it in the typical Catholic parish is often problematic. It is rushed, sermons are poor and music is sometimes of questionable taste. Further, people dress casually, and sometimes act irreverently in the Church. Many too, seem bored and disengaged from what is going on. Clergy too often seem to celebrate in a perfunctory manner, and liturgical abuses sometimes taint the celebration.

In dealing with converts from the main-line denominations, one of the hurdles I have discovered they often have to clear is the question of liturgy. They come from liturgical traditions that are not as elaborate as the full Catholic Tradition. However, their traditions are marked by a noble simplicity that has engaged them well. There is a great tradition of hymn singing, and congregational involvement. There is also a tradition of fine preaching that includes a lengthier, teaching oriented sermon that fully develops the scriptural text. Their congregations tend to be smaller and the services less numerous. Community is more intimate and so forth. It is often a sacrifice for many of them to leave this and come to an often less cozy and reverent environment that predominates in many of our larger parishes. To be sure, Catholicism offers a wide variety of liturgical experiences and reverence is not easily defined as jsut one thing. But it ought to be noted that Mr. Kemper did not mention the reverent liturgies of the Church on his primary list. We might learn something from this.

Bryan Kemper’s entrance into the Church is something to rejoice in. Obviously he sees and appreciates something in the Church that has caused him to make what is a big step for him. Pray for him as he makes this transition. Further, we ought as Catholics, to rejoice in the prophetic witness of the Church and how many are still inspired to join. Something is going right here and we ought to be grateful at what the Lord is doing. Not only does the Church enrich and inspire others to membership in the Body of Christ, but the Church is also enriched by the gifts that others, like Bryan Kemper brings. Let us rejoice and give thanks.

Here is a video clip of Bryan’s Work: