Maryland Episcopal Church is the First to Convert to Roman Catholicism

Rumblings about disgruntled Episcopal congregations in the United States breaking off from their roots and joining the Roman Catholic Church have been circulating for a while, but the St. Luke’s Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland, became the first to actually take the plunge, when it announced that it will sever ties from its liberal bishop and submit to the Pope’s authority. 

In 2009, the Vatican told Episcopalians that they would make it easy for those who opposed female and gay priests to become Roman Catholic while still retaining many of their traditions, and this is the first American congregation to take them up on the offer.  Under Pope Benedict XVI’s offer, Episcopal or Anglican priests who were already married would not be required to become celibate, although they could not become bishops.

The rector of St. Luke’s said that they were not leaving the Episcopal Church because of their views on homosexuality.  Instead, he said, he and his parishioners were looking for a clearer, more centralized authority, exemplified by the Pope.  Authority in the Episcopal Church is more diffuse, with some bishops who are more liberal than others.  The former bishop for St. Luke’s, Rev. John Bryson Chane, has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage.

Some members of St. Luke’s said they felt as though they were healing the violent rift between the Catholic and Protestant Church that emerged in the sixteenth century.  “It feels fantastic,” said one lay leader.  “It’s like correcting 500 years of history.”

St. Luke’s will lease its land from the Episcopal Church, with the possibility of purchase.  Its departure is remarkably amicable, considering that, according to the Washington Post, seven Northern Virginia congregations have been locked in land disputes with the Episcopal Church since their efforts to break away.

It’s hard to assign motive in a situation like this, especially since the St. Luke’s congregation has emphatically denied that this dramatic decision was motivated by anti-gay sentiment (although they could hardly say it was).  But what’s clear is that the Episcopal Church’s troubles, caused by its progressive leadership and agenda, probably won’t go away anytime soon.  The real question is whether the Catholic Church will be successful in luring away more Episcopal and Anglican parishes whose members are uncomfortable with the liberal policy decisions of past years.  Will St. Luke’s be an anomaly, or the first among many?


Photo from Randy OHC's Flickr photostream.


Ainsley Chalmers
Ainsley Chalmers6 years ago

As christians our primary goal is a relationship is with Jesus Christ. Christ doesnt look at denominations like we do but at the heart attitudes ie is it loving or judgemental, is the church upholding teachings of holy scripture? the church as in other human relationships needs to uphold those boundaries /laws described in holy scripture. once one departs from those laws there will literally be hell to play. the bible gives many examples of this ie what happens when we depart from the word of God and his laws. in these scenarios God disciplines us in love. no discipline is enjoyable and is better avoided if possible.

Tom Y.
Tom Y6 years ago

How do you like your politics? Constant, however unpopular? Or chasing after every trend in order to become popular? Obviously the parish at St. Luke's Episcopal has chosen consistency and tradition, traits every church needs to uphold. There are other Anglican churches joining with the Church of Rome. The rest are either looking to the authority of the conservative African Church, or dwindling as the "progressive" church.

Marianne C.
Marianne C6 years ago

There's an unintended message in this: want to be a backsliding, unrepentant bigot and repressive ideologue with church support? Become Catholic!

It would be funny in a dark way if it weren't so...well, true.

The sad truth is that those who can't deal with the breaking down of the old prejudices and non-Biblical dogmas, who never understood what the Bible really is and what it says in the first place, and who fail to understand the idea that God's love applies to everyone & not just to them do always seem to find a welcome from the Vatican. They kind of arrive pre-primed, as it were, for indoctrination. And as for people who choose to go there...well, centuries of institutionalized child abuse and molesting can't be wrong.

As more and more people reject the authority of the Vatican to tell them how to think, reject the dictates on birth control and other personal morality and matters of personal conscience, and define themselves as "Catholic in recovery" or leave the Catholic church entirely, the Vatican is ever more eager to scoop up the backsliding Protestants of the world.

The Vatican has always been WAY too much about controlling every facet and aspect of a person's life for me to view Catholicism as an option.

Janice L.
Janice Lawrence6 years ago

Been there, done that. It was the Oxford Movement. Gerard Manley Hopkins became a Jesuit, for example.

Some people just don't like change for the better. Unfortunately some of them are Episcopalians.

Tom C.
Tom C.6 years ago

It is hilarious to see the alliances formed from American reactionary politics. The Baptists and the Catholics traditionally had rather low opinions of each other (heretic, Papist etc.) Along comes the US Culture War and they are buddy buddy against liberated women and gay people. Maybe Henry VIII was wrong after all......

Alice E.
Alice E6 years ago

What will the Catholic church do with an Episcopalian group that wants to convert and has a woman as current priest? Maybe that's a dumb question; maybe those churches would never even consider converting.

Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

Well lets see. Does it matter? They both believe in fantasy stories and call it history, lie to their followers and promote subjugation of women. I think what ever these people do its just fine as long as they keep it to them selves and out of public business.

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago

Forget from the frying pan to the fire, try from a tight leash to a CHOKE CHAIN!

The idea of an Episcopal church (which I've heard described as "Catholic Lite" converting to a Roman Catholic church in order to attract more converts is likely to backfire-I see more people actually LEAVING the church when such a "merger" occurs.

I was baptized as an infant into the Episcopal religion (unfortunately, since they consider it binding for life, according to their records, I'm "stuck" even though I've never considered myself a member of any Christian faith and am now Wiccan), and I was sent to their Sunday school classes as a kid, knowing even then I was not meant to follow that path. If my eyes hadn't been opened to a better religious path (for me), then if this happened, I'd be the first one out the door!

I feel sorry for anybody who stays there and dares to actually think for themselves or hold more liberal views than this church espouses-things could get a little ugly.

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

You will always have a few fringe elements in any institution. Same goes for religion.

Carole F.
Carole f6 years ago

most comments were interesting and thought provoking for those who may have doubts or be confused about religion.