Maryland Episcopal bishop opens door to Catholics

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the wake of Vatican plans to make it easier for Episcopalians to become Catholic, the Episcopal bishop of Maryland would like to make one point clear: The door swings both ways.

Lost in talk of the splintering of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton says, is the appeal that the 45,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has held for former Roman Catholics and others looking for a big-tent church.

While attention focused on the conversion en masse last month of a Catonsville-based order of Episcopal nuns to the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has received three former Roman Catholic clergy in the past couple of months, Sutton says.

"We just want to remind people that this switching from Anglicans becoming Roman Catholics goes both ways," Sutton said. "Many, many laypeople in our churches came from the Roman Catholic Church. We get many clergy."

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

Posted October 30, 2009 at 9:43 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Sarah wrote:

Ah yes—the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

From their parish stats:

ASA at a high in 2002 of about 15,000.

Since then a steady, sure decline to about 11,500 ASA.

Better get crackin’ on more of all those RC conversions, Bishop Sutton!  Looks like they’re not able to keep up with the departures from your massively declining diocese.

October 30, 10:05 am | [comment link]
2. Grandmother wrote:

I’ve met quite a few ex-catholics over the years. Most of them came to the Episcopal Church because of the divorce issue. 
Makes me wonder what will be included as requirements for the Anglican Use situation.  Would they be able to go back? 


October 30, 10:12 am | [comment link]
3. Words Matter wrote:

Grandmother -

Of course I don’t know the details, but I’ve been told that in both Anglican Use parishes I was in, the process of conversion involved the annulment process. One person I knew involved in that told me it helped get her a lot of closure on the previous relationship, and I suspect that’s not uncommon.

In my opinion, Catholics who go to the Episcopalians, or other protestant groups,  possibly grow closer, in their honesty, to the Kingdom of Heaven. Maybe not, but possible.  Of course, the ones we’d really like to get rid of - Fr. McBrian, Sr. Joan Chittester, Fr. Hans Kung, et. al. - won’t go, since they would lose their rebel status and the 60s might actually come to an end.

October 30, 10:55 am | [comment link]
4. mink80 wrote:

I am one of the few; the proud: a conservative in the Diocese of Maryland.  My parish, traditionally one of the Diocese’s most well off (strong and vital only 2-3 years ago) is now challenged with revenue generation and has lost/is losing prominent members, over all of the current “issues.” I have informed my rector that my 2010 pledge will go to Trinity School for Ministry.  Next steps unknown, but likely not good….

October 30, 10:57 am | [comment link]
5. phil swain wrote:

The article seems to miss the whole point of the Vatican’s response to the TAC bishops.  It’s not about cherry-picking individual members, but about a provision for corporate reunion.  This article is just another example of journalists not getting the theological issues.  But, I guess if you were weaned on a hermeneutic of suspicion, then all the theological issues are just cover for power moves. Unfortunately, Bishop Sutton fill into the reporter’s trap and responded in a tit-for-tat fashion.

October 30, 11:02 am | [comment link]
6. Branford wrote:

This whole thing is getting petty, from Bishop Frade in Florida gloating over “getting” Fr. Cutie to this bishop seeming to make it a competition. My goodness, the TAC has been talking to Rome for years and now there is a possible accommodation (although no one’s seen the Apostolic Constitution yet) and all the Piskies can do is see it as competition. How sad.

October 30, 11:19 am | [comment link]
7. wportbello wrote:

Sad, shameful, and embarrassing…
“Ye shall know them by their fruits…”  Mt 7:16

October 30, 11:40 am | [comment link]
8. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

the 60s might actually come to an end.

Oh, Heavens! Not that! Blasphemy! Let us not speak the unspeakable.

October 30, 11:41 am | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

mink80 (#4),

Thanks for sharing your poignant situation.  May the Lord sustain and guide you.

Many of us remember fondly the famous Baltimore Declaration of 1991, a fine manifesto that charged TEC with fomenting outright heresy and called for a return to orthodoxy.  Of the six priests who signed that historic declaration, the chief author, Fr. Alvin Kimel, later defected to the Roman Catholic Church, and another, Fr. Gary Matthews-Green, became Antiochan Orthodox.  I’m not sure about the other four.

David Handy+

October 30, 11:52 am | [comment link]
10. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

#8 Yes - where would we all be?

October 30, 12:06 pm | [comment link]
11. TridentineVirginian wrote:

#3 - on the other hand we have lost quite a few of that ilk to TEC, like Fr. Matthew Fox, Katie Sherrod, Jim Naughton, etc. That’s good for us, but not good to TEC. Every heretic who flees us in the direction of TEC just adds to the heresy over there. In exchange we get excellent people like Fr. Rutler, Fr. Kimel, and Fr. Steenson. I wonder if Sutton thinks that’s a good exchange?

October 30, 12:17 pm | [comment link]
12. Chris Molter wrote:

I suppose it’s a lot easier going across the Thames than the Tiber.. the yoke has been retconned out of existence, and the burden is .. well.. pretty darn close to inconsequential.

October 30, 12:31 pm | [comment link]
13. advocate wrote:

This is a “surprise move”? This reporter needs to do some more homework.  Some provision has been in the works since TAC petitioned, and various published letters from Rome have been saying “Be patient, we are working on it.” Bad reporting, I’d say.

October 30, 1:06 pm | [comment link]
14. Clueless wrote:

This is hilarious.  A former TEC pastor, when asked “what do I need to do to join the episcopal church?”  replied “Raise your right hand and repeat after me - I am an Episcopalian”.  (I not sure if he checked if the person was baptised, but probably he was).

Catholics, Baptists, Mormons and everybody else already know that they are “welcome” in the Episcopal church.  Becoming a Catholic is considerably more laborious and I should know.  It took me six months before I was permitted to participate in communion, and I was granted the “short” version of private directed study, rather than the usual year long RCIA.  However if the good bishop thinks that reminding people that “The Episcopal church welcomes you” will be helpful, he is welcome to do so, I’m sure.

October 30, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
15. mink80 wrote:

Clueless (#14):

Thanks for depressing me even more by reminding me how low the barriers to entry are in TEC…your comment is right on the money:  I was able to bring good personal friends to my parish, a Roman and Presbyterian couple.  You must have overheard the conversation they had with our then-interim rector, where his reply to an inquiry on formally becoming Episcopalians was EXACTLY your comment above.  I was mortified, and the RC husband has never let me live it down.  They are both good conservatives, and he’s already talking about going home…

October 30, 2:23 pm | [comment link]
16. Jim the Puritan wrote:

As my Catholic friend always says, “It’s a great arrangement.  You give us your best, and we get to give you our worst.”

October 30, 2:44 pm | [comment link]
17. Dallasite wrote:

Why would I want to become a Catholic?

October 30, 3:08 pm | [comment link]
18. Chris Molter wrote:

Why would I want to become a Catholic?

The only reason I can think of is because you believe the Catholic Church is what she claims she is.  Any other reason is insufficient, IMO.

October 30, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
19. teatime wrote:

Wow. As one who left the RCC and became an Episcopalian, can I ask that you NOT make rude and disparaging remarks about us? Right now I’m awfully glad that some of y’all weren’t on the “welcoming” committee.

I went through months of Inquirers Class before being received by the bishop, btw. Blanket generalizations may sound cute or funny but they’re most often false—and hurtful.

October 30, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
20. Fr. J. wrote:

Teatime, even if you had to take some classes, I am sure you went to communion all along the way.  Having to take some classes doesn’t change some basic dynamics.  Most who go from the Catholic Church to TEC do so to avoid the burden of remarriage without benefit of annulment.  Most of the Catholics who become protestant are those who are most nominal or least well formed in their Catholic faith.  Mostly it involves no real sacrifice.  And most are welcomed by congregations which are eager to bring someone out of Catholicism.

Those who come to the Catholic Church often have some real hurdles to jump including annulments, the loss of some friends who abhor the idea of becoming Catholic, and coming to a Catholic faith on doctrinal issues.  It involves vigorous study for many and a confrontation with the demons of ingrained anti-Catholicism that either subtly or not so subtly pervade the protestant ethos.  Having struggled with some of these “demons” myself in order to return to the Catholic Church from a TEC parish, I know it can be truly difficult and can require a real outpouring of grace in order to “come home” to the Catholic Church.  It was not easy for me, and I admire all those who face various trials courageously in order to come to conversion.

October 30, 4:43 pm | [comment link]
21. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Teatime.  If you want to read rude and disparging remarks, open up the subject of how many RCIA and RE classes are taught in Catholic parishes.  For the added bonus of expressions of disbelief and anger add the ones being taught by certain Sisters. 

But the fact remains it is easier to convert to the Protestant faith.
I have a feeling that your experience was the exception.  And though I believe it should be the standard.  That standard being, “this is what we believe and this is why we believe it.” 

However, I have a feeling that too often the standard for conversion is one that stresses that all important doctrine of inclusiviness.  “Oh you poor dear aren’t the Baptists such big bullies?” or “The Catholic Church requires you to leave your mind at the door.  We don’t”

You found God in the Episcopal Church, for which I am grateful.  God with a capital G.  Too many find a small g god of their own making in the TEC and it is that sort these “welcomes” appeal to.

October 30, 4:56 pm | [comment link]
22. mink80 wrote:

By talking about “low barriers to entry”, I did not intend to slam anyone personally.  I meant that my in 51 years of experience as a cradle Episcopalian I have seen little if any required education for newcomers, which is a crying shame.

October 30, 4:57 pm | [comment link]
23. DaveW wrote:

Everyone needs to read this:

October 30, 5:10 pm | [comment link]
24. Franz wrote:

#16—Now that made me smile (somewhat ruefully) because it is consistent with what I have seen in my diocese and my parish.

October 30, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
25. Ad Orientem wrote:

Why do I have a feeling that the Pope would love to give bishop Sutton some names and addresses?


October 30, 6:11 pm | [comment link]
26. Sarah wrote:

RE: “It involves vigorous study for many and a confrontation with the demons of ingrained anti-Catholicism that either subtly or not so subtly pervade the protestant ethos.”

Exhibit #1351—more of the “we’re victims of prejudice—that’s why you Protestants disagree with our theology.”


October 30, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
27. Branford wrote:

Sarah - as one who has “swum” the Tiber recently from “cradle” TEC, I have to say I did hear, from family, some anti-Catholic prejudice. And some disagreements with theology. Are the two connected? I’m not sure, but it sure surprised me at the reaction - not that they were disappointed that I was leaving TEC (I knew they would be) but that they were so anti-Catholic (“Why can’t you join the Lutherans?” and “Do you really want your children having so many babies?”). So yes, there is prejudice out there, don’t discount it.

October 30, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
28. Ad Orientem wrote:

I am not Roman Catholic (anymore).  But I can absolutely confirm that anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well in the USA.  It has been described as America’s last socially acceptable prejudice, and I believe it.  Frankly I think it is so pervasive that most of the time we don’t even recognize it when its flaunted under our nose.


October 30, 10:20 pm | [comment link]
29. teatime wrote:

Again, generalizing about converts and their experiences for the purpose of slamming TEC is rude. There is simply no excuse for it, IMO. There is plenty y’all can complain about regarding TEC if that is what you want to do, without resorting to attacks on converts. I’m sorry if some of you think that we who come from the RCC are the “worst” (Nos. 16 and 24, among others) but that’s your problem, not mine. I do hope, though, that you treat converts better than your judgment of them implies.

Since one of you was possibly implying that my conversion was one of convenience, due to a marital/divorce issue, let me set the record straight—I have never been married. I might add, too, that “coming home to Rome” for many of us would be to return to a deeply dysfunctional home where we were hurt and felt unsafe. It’s not going to happen.

I do find the “everything is rosy in Rome” and “everything sucks in TEC” mentality to be disingenuous but attacking believers is flat-out wrong.

October 30, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
30. Words Matter wrote:

John/AO -

I assume you are referring to The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice by the Episcopalian Phillip Jenkins. It’s good documentation of what honest people know.

Actually, one of my favorite moments occurred not too long after I became Catholic. A family friend, an old-time Methodist, had heard the news and told me “That’s ok, Catholics are people too”. She really meant it, too.  Anti-catholicism? I suppose, but it’s gives me a laugh 20+ years later.

Still, John, I will note (not for the first time) that us Catholics get gigged a lot for what you Orthodox do just as much! Ok, you worship icons and we worship statues, but the point obtains.  And your bishops are celibate! Oh, the humanity. And so on. And fasting! Let’s not go there. You know ya’ll are a lot better at that mortification stuff in general than us.


October 30, 11:51 pm | [comment link]
31. Sarah wrote:

RE: “So yes, there is prejudice out there, don’t discount it.”

Oh absolutely I know.  Just as “there is prejudice out there” against Calvinists, and AngloCatholics, and Baptists, and the poor old Fundamentalists, and the Mormons.

But that’s not what some Roman Catholics are claiming.  They’re claiming “demons of ingrained anti-Catholicism that either subtly or not so subtly pervade the protestant ethos.”

What a load of bull-hockey.

RE: “The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice by the Episcopalian Phillip Jenkins.”

Mmm.  Phillip Jenkins.

RE: “It’s good documentation of what honest people know.”

; > )

All, the “Mean Protestants Who Do Not Believe Our Theology And State It Aloud Are Anti-Catholic and Prejudiced” thread was over here:

And I said what I believed.  I see that Fr. J and Words Matter are going to be stating this meme with droning constancy on multiple threads.  So fair warning—I’ll be droning right back in response because I simply don’t grant their thesis and find it incredibly—albeit humorously—smug and self-serving.

October 31, 12:21 am | [comment link]
32. Ad Orientem wrote:

Let’s not go there. You know ya’ll are a lot better at that mortification stuff in general than us.

What makes you say that?  Doesn’t everyone abstain from meat fish wine oil and animal products (including all dairy) while eating only 1 meal during the day for around half the year?

October 31, 12:22 am | [comment link]
33. Fr. J. wrote:


In fact, I have a couple of friends who are Protestant ministers (not Anglicans or TEC).  One, who is in his 50’s, is waiting ‘til his parents die because he fears they will never talk to him again.  The other is struggling with losing so many of his Missouri Synod confreres as friends.  I dont think it is right that anyone should be treated this way by either friends or family for following his conscience.  But, it is not uncommon.  There are members of many religious communities that were disowned by their parents for first becoming Catholics and then becoming religious priests.

Granted, these stories are less common in recent years among those who come from mainline churches, though many liberals have come to hate the Catholic Church as much as before for different reasons.  And, many of those who are becoming Catholics today are coming from Evangelical backgrounds where the price one pays for becoming Catholic can be very high.

Perhaps this is not part of your world or your experience.  That’s good.  But, how can anyone deny the very real experiences of so many?

[Edited by Elf - commenters are requested not to make personal comments but to address the thread topic]

October 31, 1:00 am | [comment link]
34. Fr. J. wrote:


I just thought of another situation that might interest you and which in a way can be said to support both our positions.  About a year ago I got a Facebook message and friendship request from a guy I knew in college and hadn’t thought of in 25 years.  I was in his circle of acquaintances as a freshman and he was always on the attack because I was was Catholic.  He was relentless and would constantly turn the conversation to religion and pit the rest of the room against me.  Eventually, I realized as a Catholic I could not continue with the social group without being harassed.  I moved on and forgot about it til he looked me up.

Now teaching at Liberty Baptist, he had taken an interest in Merton, and Nouwen and eventually got into Chesterton, Maritain, von Bathasar and other Catholic thinkers.  He looked me up after all these years to apologize for the anti-Catholicism of his youth and explained to me that he could not stand having a practicing Catholic among his circle of friends.  Remarkably, one of our mutual friends from that time has since also become Catholic and married another Catholic.

So, yes, there are even some who are willing to admit their anti-Catholicism—even at Liberty Baptist—though it seems that attitudes are gradually changing.  Still, I know a young Catholic seminarian who found plenty of hostility toward him when he converted to Catholicism as an undergraduate student there.  He had to keep his Catholicism a secret from some of his professors.  He graduated just last summer and this fall entered the seminary.

October 31, 1:23 am | [comment link]
35. Fr. J. wrote:


I never said that I consider it anti-Catholic to disagree with Catholic doctrine.  But, anti-Catholicism is a very real thing.  I have lived in both urban and rural Virginia and worked as a priest in rural Indiana.  I have plenty of experiences of real anti-Catholicism and know of two protestant ministers who are being held back from entering the Catholic Church because of fear of rejection from both family and friends.

I have a young Catholic seminarian friend who became Catholic while an undergraduate at Liberty Baptist University.  He had to keep his Catholicism a secret from the faculty for fear of unfair treatment and experienced some real hostility among his peers.  He graduated just last year and entered the seminary this fall, which required remarkable courage on his part.

I also have plenty of my own experiences.  I think Catholic experience not only disagreement but sometimes opposition and some hostility, and those who become Catholic can experience this all the more.

I am not trying to start a campaign.  But I don’t think we should deny people’s real experiences.

October 31, 1:48 am | [comment link]
36. Fr. J. wrote:

Sorry for #35.  My previous two comments did not appear, so I summarized them in 35.

October 31, 1:50 am | [comment link]
37. Words Matter wrote:

John -

I was thinking more about not having pews, but then, I’m a fat old man with bad knees. 

[Edited by Elf - please do not ignore our instructions].

October 31, 2:39 am | [comment link]
38. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re # 37
Words Matter
Hmmm most churches that don’t have pews have benches against the walls for those of us who are challenged by standing for several hours at a time.  I went to the Great Vespers at the cathedral in San Francisco for my name day (the incorrupt relics of St. John are there).  After 3 hrs of the service (one of which was spent in line for confession) with no end in sight, I capitulated to the weakness of my legs.


October 31, 2:54 am | [comment link]
39. Words Matter wrote:

Last month I heard Vespers in an OCA parish sung by a travelling seminary schola. It didn’t run 3 hours, but with veneration of a miracle icon they brought along, it was pretty close.  I did get a chair, and was quite grateful for it. Now, 20+ years ago, I went to Pascha and stood the whole 5 hours. But I was a younger then. And you do get to walk around the block singing about 2 hours in.


October 31, 3:45 am | [comment link]
40. Words Matter wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

October 31, 10:07 am | [comment link]
41. Daniel Muth wrote:

Frankly, it’s too bad this thread got so far off topic since the ostensible subject is an interesting one for those of us who, for whatever reason, are staying in TEC for the foreseable future, and particularly for those of us who look rather wistfully at the Pope’s offer (as a good Catholic, I’d like to find a way to take it - but one-man church-hopping just strikes me as essentially too, too Protestant), and all the more for those of us who do these things in the Diocese of Maryland.  For one thing, Bishop Sutton is likely to be an important figure in TEC.  He’s personable, articulate, extremely polished, and quite adept at saying what his audience wants to hear.  I have no reason not to believe that there’s a solid Christian core to the man and he exudes a quiet, and in its way, holy confidence.  Add to that the fact that he is Black and fairly young and he has to be on a lot of short lists for PB the next time around. 

So it’s all the more disappointing to see stuff like this that shows the man to be a painfully sloppy thinker evidently free of any appreciable grasp of Church History and with little in the way of apparent theological formation.  That the worship of the Civil Rights Movement is deeply ingrained in minds of TEC’s leadership is pretty clear herein and the thought that there might be anything idolatrous about that seems pretty far from any consideration.  Ouch.  Then there’s the seeming total cluelessness of any Ecclesial or theological significance to the Vatican’s offer: “Hey, we get Roman Catholics over here all the time.”  Uh, yeah, but really wouldn’t it be worth actually commenting in a meaningful way on the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution?  The news here, it would seem, is that the man - and I emphasize, I think him a very good man in many ways - seems utterly incapable of grasping what’s going on with the Papal offer.  It’s a shame, really.

October 31, 1:32 pm | [comment link]
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