Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli

by Steve Ray on September 18, 2020

Evangelical Protestant flagship periodical asks: “Why do evangelicals convert to Catholicism and how should we respond?”

Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former CT Editor Mark Galli

This Sunday, September 13, a man named Mark will become confirmed as a Catholic. Why is this significant?

Mark Galli, who will be confirmed under the name of St. Francis, is a former Presbyterian pastor and editor-in-chief for Christianity Today. Additionally, as RNS noted, for a few days last December, he was perhaps the best-known evangelical in the nation calling for the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from the presidency.

Galli, however, says the timing of his conversion to Catholicism two months before the next election is for personal reasons. After 20 years in the Anglican Church, he believes moving to Catholicism is not a rejection of evangelicalism but instead taking his existing “Anglicanism deeper and thicker.”

His faith journey has taken him from Presbyterianism to becoming an Episcopalian, then Anglican, with a brief interlude of attending the Orthodox Church. This runs counter to trends in the U.S.; Currently for every one convert to Catholicism, six leave the tradition. But notable Protestants, from Elizabeth Ann Seton and John Henry Newman, to G.K. Chesterton, Francis Beckwith, and Tony Blair. The RNS article observed:

Some converts are drawn to the beauty of Catholic ritual. Others to the church’s rich intellectual tradition or the centrality of the Eucharist, the bread and wine used for Communion, which Catholics believe becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

That was part of the reason for Galli, but his fatigue with evangelicalism contributed as well. “I want to submit myself to something bigger than myself,” He said, a dding:

One thing I like about both Orthodoxy and Catholicism is that you have to do these things, whether you like it or not, whether you’re in the mood or not, sometimes whether you believe or not. You just have to plow ahead. I want that.

Why do Evangelicals Become Catholics?

A Catholic Perspective

Beauty: In the National Catholic Register, an article on the book Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians and Their Pathsto Rome noted beauty as one reason. No less than ten Southern Evangelical Seminary students contributed to this book, as did Francis Beckwith of Baylor.

Editor (and convert) Douglas Beaumont observed:

In Protestantism, there’s a tendency to dismiss any reason other than the intellectual. But as human beings, we’re both physical and spiritual creatures. In the Catholic Church, he found, intellect and reason are respected; but the Catholic Church is also more beautiful and more historical. There is an attractive package which draws the spirit, combining art and music and beauty, a long history, and tradition, with solid intellectual arguments.

Spirituality: Scott Hahn, another former evangelical now Catholic, in his chapter “Come to the Father: The Fact at the Foundation of Catholic Spirituality,” in Four Views on Christian Spirituality, notes the great diversity of expressions of spirituality from the

. . . silence of the Trappists and the Pentecostal praise of the Charismatic Renewal; the rarified intellectual life of the Dominicans and the profound feeling of the Franciscans; the wealth of the knights of Malta and the elected poverty of the Missionaries of Charity; the strict enclosure of the Carthusians and the world-loving secularity of the Opus Dei; the bright colors of Central American devotional art and the austere blocks of the German cathedrals; the warrior spirit of the Templars and the serene pax of the Benedictines; Ignatian detachment and Marian warmth.

He argues this shows the richness of Catholic spirituality which “presents a forest indiscernible because of the variety and number— and even the age— of its trees.”

For the rest of the insightful conversion story written from an Evangelical Protestant perspective trying to understand why the editor of his magazine would convert to Catholicism—click here.

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