Lutherans becoming Catholics

From the National Catholic Register with my emphases:

Increasing Number of Lutherans are Coming into the Catholic Church

BY Tim Drake

One of the most under-reported religious stories of the past decade has been the movement of Lutherans across the Tiber. What first began with prominent Lutherans, such as Richard John Neuhaus (1990) and Robert Wilken (1994), coming into the Catholic Church, has become more of a landslide that could culminate in a larger body of Lutherans coming into the collectively. In 2000, former Canadian Lutheran Bishop Joseph Jacobson came into the Church.

No other Church really can duplicate what Jesus gave,” Jacobson told the Western Catholic Reporter in 2006. [How could it?  Had Jesus desired that there could be more than one Church, He would have said that or He would have founded more than one.] In 2003, Leonard Klein, a prominent Lutheran and the former editor of Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter came into the Church. Today, both Jacobson and Klein are Catholic priests. Over the past several years, an increasing number of Lutheran theologians have joined the Church’s ranks, some of whom now teach at Catholic colleges and universities. They include, but are not limited to: Paul Quist (2005), Richard Ballard (2006), Paul Abbe (2006), Thomas McMichael, Mickey Mattox, David Fagerberg, Bruce Marshall, Reinhard Hutter, Philip Max Johnson, and most recently, Dr. Michael Root (2010).

“The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years,” wrote Dr. Root. “But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity. This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.” [I was nothing like a theologian at the time, but what he describes I could have written about my own conversion and entrance into the Catholic Church.] It’s been said that “no one converts alone,” suggesting that oftentimes the effect of one conversion helps to move another along a similar path. [Take a look at Joseph Pearce’e Literary Converts.] That’s exemplified through Paul Quist’s story. He describes attending the Lutheran “A Call to Faithfulness” conference at St. Olaf College in June, 1990. There, he listened to, and met, Richard John Neuhaus, who would announce his own conversion just months later. “What some Lutherans were realizing was that, without the moorings of the Church’s Magisterium, Lutheranism would ineluctably drift from it’s confessional and biblical source,” wrote Quist. Many of the converts have come from The Society of the Holy Trinity, a pan-Lutheran ministerium organized in 1997 to work for the confessional and spiritual renewal of Lutheran churches. Now, it appears that a larger Lutheran body will be joining the Church. Father Christopher Phillips, writing at the Anglo-Catholic blog, reports that the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC) clergy and parishes will be entering into the U.S. ordinariate being created for those Anglicans desiring to enter the Church. According to the blog, the ALCC sent a letter to Walter Cardinal Kasper, on May 13, 2009, stating that it “desires to undo the mistakes of Father Martin Luther, and return to the One, Holy, and True Catholic Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ through the Blessed Saint Peter.” That letter was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Surprisingly, in October 2010, the ALCC received a letter from the secretary of the CDF, informing them that Archbishop Donald Wuerl had been appointed as an episcopal delegate to assist with the implementation of Angelicanorum coetibus. The ALCC responded that they would like to be included as part of the reunification.

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tina in Ashburn says:

    This is wonderful.

  2. irishgirl says:

    This is great!
    And of course, you, Father Z, are a convert from Lutheranism yourself! Thank YOU for ‘crossing the Tiber’ when you did!

  3. jlmorrell says:

    Does anyone know more about these former Lutherans (not the late Fr. Neuhaus with whom I’m familiar)? Are they similar to many of the Anglo-Catholics who, while not necessarily traditional Catholics, are friendly and sympathetic towards them. I’m just curious to know more about the mentality and leanings of the these ex-Lutherans since I haven’t heard much about them.

    John M.

  4. Random Friar says:

    This should give strength to those who support the Anglican ordinariate, and lessen the excuses for not supporting it with heart, mind and soul. Unfortunately, some will see this as “anti-Ecumenical.” Nonsense. We put out the truth, hiding nothing, showing all our cards. They show theirs, and we see where we can go from there.

    May these souls receive the charitable welcome of Holy Mother Church and Her members.

  5. Subdeacon Joseph says:


    If my memory serves me correctly they are a synod that came out of Missouri Synod in order to establish a more catholic identity.

  6. rinkevichjm says:

    Now really how can one acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, of everything, and then belong to an organization that claims He isn’t Lord of the Church which He built?

  7. Childermass says:

    I’m not from a Lutheran background, but the writings of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus played a large part in my own conversion. Converts are the gift that keeps on giving.

  8. What is critically important to note is that all Lutheranism is NOT the same. Lutherans are organized into synods and operate independently from each other. Matters of faith, while theoretically rooted the same, have diverged over time. The largest synod is the ELCA and it interprets Lutheranism through votes of delegates at conventions. The selection of delegates is stacked against those with actually theological training.

    I was Lutheran since baptism well over 50 years ago. Through mergers, I ended up in the ELCA and it effectively was the only choice in my area. They had been steadily marching in the progressive direction for a long time (open table communion, women pastors, even full abortion coverage for any reason in the healthcare plans of pastors). In August 2009, they finally went far enough to wake me up. At that time they decided to accept openly homosexual pastors and bless such unions. This was a real blessing for me, becoming Catholic the next Spring.

    Note that the 2nd largest US synod is LCMS. They are far more orthodox and are quite appalled at the ELCA direction. The 3rd largest is WELS. The ALCC is extremely tiny BTW.

  9. Winfield says:

    Fr. Leonard Klein serves in the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware. He is an orthodox, holy, learned, and engaging man whose entry into the Church and priesthood is a blessing to all who know him. Fr. Klein is married with three grown children and several grandchildren and came into the Church after serving for many years as a Lutheran pastor in York, Pa.

  10. contrarian says:

    Cool that the article mentioned the Society of the Holy Trinity. They are a cool bunch, given what I’ve heard. As a former Lutheran myself (I was confirmed five years ago this Easter), I found this article fascinating, and wished it was much longer. George of course makes a good point about the heterogeneity of Lutheran synods. One other thing that should be kept in mind is that, even among the synods, there isn’t necessarily consistency from parish to parish. This is especially true in the ELCA. I might say that the ELCA is like the Catholic Church in this regard. The only thing different–and I suppose this is an important thing–is that the headquarters of the former is messed up and in the latter is, well, the Real Deal. But on a parish level the Catholic Church can still be whack, as we all know.

    I must say that I get quite nostalgic for my old Lutheran world most Sundays after enduring yet another craptastic liturgical display, as much as I know the Catholic Church is, well, where the truth is, etc. etc.. Even five years in, I still have moments of shock when I try to understand the level of ridiculousness in my new Catholic home.

  11. rinkevichjm says:

    The LCMS isn’t more orthodox than the ECLA they just like to claim that. The LCMS fails to claim that a lack of fidelious acts can’t be justified while the the ECLA condones the performance of unfaithful acts—both are heretical.

  12. jeffreyquick says:

    I grew up Lutheran (“Misery Synod”) and when I returned to the Lord after the widest possible detour, I sniffed around Lutheranism before choosing to become Catholic. ELCA is hopeless. Yes, LCMS is heretical. But the difference is illustrated by the fact that George Tiller was shot in an ELCA church because the LCMS had excommunicated him.

  13. JoAnna says:

    My husband and I are converts from the ELCA. For me, the issue of abortion was the catalyst for my conversion, because the ELCA’s position was incredibly inconsistent and a study in moral relativism. (Shameless plug – I blogged about it here.)

  14. Sid says:

    1. The New Perspective(s) on Paul in New Testament scholarship has demolished pretty much the classic Lutheran teaching on justification; one would have thought that a reading of Romans 2 would have done that already. Indeed, it is only Neo-Calvinists whom I see still holding on to Luther’s view.

    What therefore remains of classic Lutheranism is the question of authority. Calvinists are already split between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. Neuhaus said (if I remember correctly) that he became a Catholic after considering the V2 document Verbum Dei, where both The Church and The Bible are placed under the authority of the Living Word of God, Christ IHS, and that with that statement the reason for the Protestant Reformation had been vacated.

    2. Prophesy is a tough trade. I try my hand at it with some hesitation:
    Protestantism in the US is divided currently into these groups:
    i. Liberal/Mainline
    ii. Calvinist Evangelical (anti-Liberal)
    iii. Arminian Evangelical (anti-Liberal)
    iv. Pentecostal/Dispensationalist (really two different groups)
    v. Anti-Liberal Anglican (both High Church and Low)
    vi. Lutheran

    If the article posted is correct, #vi. will soon be only the Missouri Synod, the rest of the Lutherans gone to #i or to Rome. #v. will also be either in Rome, except for a few tiny pockets, or only Low Church Evangelical. I’m not too optimistic about #iv, because the two groups run on emotions; and the enemy of all emotions and enthusiasm is time.

    As for #i, in Europe, the people who would be Liberals in the US just don’t go to church and are likely to be agnostic/atheist. The same future awaits US Liberal Protestants.

    That means the US Protestantism will be within a few decades ##ii and iii. And if Rome wishes ecumenical dialogue, it would do well to spend most of her effort on these two groups. In passing: It is remarkable that the fruits of the Fourth Great Awakening (70s/80s) is a Calvinist revival in the 90s, and in reaction to it an Arminian revival in the first decade of the current century.

    3. The other unreported religious story in the US is the shift in the United Methodist Church from being Liberal (almost as Liberal as the Unitarians and the United Church of Christ) to a return to its Arminian roots. And with that shift its numbers have begun to grow again. In 1960 there were 10 million Methodists. After the years of Liberalism, they were half that.

  15. cwillia1 says:

    In my view the great divide in American protestantism is between those who have some kind of ecclesiology and those who view the church as an abstract way to think about believers as a whole and who view organized Christianity as a matter of convenience rather than being of the essence of Christian life. We can expect a large number of conversions from the first group with the remainder becoming theologically liberal mainliners – a group that will last about one more generation.

    From the second and larger group we will see conversions of knowledgeable people who search deeper for the truth. A larger number of Catholics will go the other way attracted by a pagan style of worship that is divorced from the mysteries of the church but which satisfies their “spiritual” appetites.

  16. Dirichlet says:

    Deo gratias.
    2017 approaches, it’s going to be 500 years.

  17. I admit I am somewhat unfamiliar with Lutheran worship and, for that matter, theology. Although I have been told by many former Lutherans that both are much more Catholic than any other denomination (except the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church). I know that they were allowing married Lutheran pastors who converted to be ordained priests even before the Council.

    In the build-up to the ordinariate, I was told by several Scandinavian Lutherans (which are all state Churches, with bishops) that they wish there would be something similar set up for them.

    I wonder if ex-Lutherans could enlighten us if Lutheran worship would lend itself to a “Lutheran Use”? Is there a Lutheran Patrimony which has developed which has its own unique gifts worth saving? Besides Bach, of course!

  18. ericrun says:

    Fr. Chauncey Winkler was raised Lutheran. I believe he said he entered RCIA just to learn, not intending to convert, and he was ordained less than a decade ago.

  19. catholicmidwest says:


    Missouri Synod Lutheran looks a whole lot like N. O. Catholicism on the surface, but the theology is a lot different. There are some aspects of practice that are rather like Catholic practice and some are widely divergent from it, as well.

    I was a Missouri Synod Lutheran for a few years, on my way to the Catholic church. My husband was raised in that church.

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Z,
    I knew you were a convert from the protestant side, but I didn’t know you had been a Lutheran. I should have guessed though, based on your location. Aren’t you in Wisconsin? The cheese & Lutheran capital of the USA. Which synod were you raised in?

  21. Childermass says:

    Great that these Lutherans have converted despite the problems in the Church today! Hopefully they will provide good leaven in the Church’s renewal.

    There is another church out there that claims to be the Catholic Church founded by Christ: Orthodoxy. Plenty of Lutherans have also gone in that direction, notably Jaroslav Pelikan.

    The more we restore our Catholic identity and more closely resemble the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church (in belief, praxis, and worship), the more separated brethren will wish to be in full union with us.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    So long as they bring Papa Bach with them . . . .

  23. bernadette says:

    I attended LCMS in the 1970’s. If I remember correctly, the liturgy was sung. It started with Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart O God,” and ended with Simeon’s prayer, “Now let thy servant depart in peace.” Communion was kneeling and on the tongue. What was in the middle of the liturgy escapes my memory. What I do remember, though, seems more Catholic than some of the Catholic Masses I have attended since.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    To be not so very deep in history in many places in the globe is to cease to be a Catholic and to be Buddhist, Animist, Hindu, etc.

  25. SemiSpook says:

    I found out about this a couple of years ago. Really surprising that it’s easier for Lutherans to convert than it is for Anglicans.

  26. boko fittleworth says:

    Interesting that Lutherans could come in en masse, as a group. Pope of Christian Unity, and all that. I think that Pope Benedict’s work uniting first Anglicans and now, possibly, Lutherans, qua Anglicans and Lutherans, that is, as a group, is important to understanding his thinking about a mission to the Jews. His new EF Good Friday prayer for the Jews and his Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 2, suggest, at first read, that he rejects the project of converting Jews right now. Rather, he stresses God’s eschatological plan to convert the Jews after the full number of gentiles have come into the Church. I cannot believe that it is not necessary now to work and pray for the conversion of each and every individual Jew. Perhaps Pope Benedict’s thoughts on this can be reconciled to our current necessity by understanding that the Church’s and the Christian’s mission to bring each individual Jew to Christ remains unchanged. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, even for Jews. What is different about Jews is not that they do not need Christ, and not that we are not to evangelize them, but, that they, unlike Lutherans, Anglicans, and other non-Catholics, are not the object of any program to bring them in en masse as “the Jews.” One at a time, rather. The “group program” for the Jews is reserved to God in His time.

    Just a thought as I try to understand current thinking on the conversion of the Jews.

  27. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    God bless you Father Z. for converting! God continues to whisper in hearts and draw all people to His one Church, yay!

  28. Former Altar Boy says:

    Praise God for all the conversions from Lutheranism. Let it continue, but I do not think they should be given their own ordinariate like the Anglicans. Just my opinion.

  29. J Kusske says:

    The day I see Catholic Latin high mass offered up at Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf College, I will sing a Te Deum. Fram fram Kristmen Krossmen! (I know that the ELCA is a hopeless case, but I cannot help from hoping my alma mater can win through to the truth…)

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