Wrestling with the Reality of Conversion

Thanks, Deacon Greg for sharing this deeply concerning story out of southern Illinois.

The immediate problem is this: “For now, the bishop has appointed a newly ordained deacon to run the parish — except the deacon has been married four times, and not everyone at St. Mary’s, the parish where I grew up, is comfortable with that” writes Melinda Henneberger in the Washington Post.

As parishioner Jim Pohl explained, “How can I look up to [Deacon Lowe] when he’s been married three or four times?”…“How can I go to church with him up there?”

I acknowledge that there’s quite a background of leadership changes in this parish, and I’m not in a position to comment on those shifts. However, I’m profoundly saddened and challenged by the situation. Especially in this season of Lent–a season that begins with the declaration from Mark 1:15, “Repent and believe the Gospel”–shouldn’t we be more joyful about the apparent repentance and embrace of the Gospel by someone in our own midst?

Welcoming repentance and conversion isn’t always easy. But, it’s not new to our experience as Church. Think of what Saul/Paul experienced after his conversion!

In Acts Chapter 9, Ananias is first quite hesitant to accept Paul’s conversion, presenting his objections to God before giving in and helping Paul as the Lord asked him to. Then, a few verses later we hear that the whole assembly was astounded by the changes in Paul’s outlook. And finally, when Paul tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, they too were afraid of him, and it took the intervention of Barnabas to convince the leaders that Paul’s conversion was real–that his repentance was genuine, that Paul was indeed called to be a leader in the growing Christian movement.

Let us pray, this second week of Lent, that all who have experienced repentance and conversion might be readily accepted in their faith communities and greeted with rejoicing, as a found sheep loved and called by the Lord, our Good Shepherd (Luke 15:7).

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