The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Another Episcopal bishop decides to convert

For the third time this year, an Episcopal bishop is leaving his flock to join the Catholic Church.

The following comes from The Living Church Foundation, which serves the Episcopalian church:

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, Bishop of the Rio Grande, will resign from his position and become a Roman Catholic, The Living Church has learned.


In a letter to the clergy of his diocese, Bishop Steenson said a pastoral letter to all the people of the diocese would follow in a few days. He said he had invited Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to attend the Rio Grande clergy conference Sept. 26.

“I … have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave The Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws,” he wrote.

Bishop Steenson was attending the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans and plans to make an announcement concerning his decision on Monday.

In an interview with The Living Church to be published in a forthcoming issue, Bishop Steenson said the meeting of the House of Bishops at Camp Allen in the spring had a major effect on his decision.


“The spring meeting of the House of Bishops, when the majority said that The Episcopal Church was fundamentally autonomous and local,” he said. “This is not the Catholic doctrine of the Church, and it will lead to many unfortunate consequences.”

The bishop has been the diocesan in the Albuquerque-based diocese since 2005. He was canon to the ordinary under Bishop Terence Kelshaw for five years before being elected to the episcopate. Prior to that, he was rector of All Saints’ Church, Wynnewood, Pa., Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pa., and St. Andrew’s, Fort Worth. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Nashotah House and the Board of Directors of the Living Church Found

“My conscience is deeply troubled,” he said in a statement prepared for the House of Bishops, “because I sense that the obligations of my ministry in The Episcopal Church may lead me to a place apart from scripture and tradition. I am concerned that if I do not listen to and act in accordance with conscience now, it will become harder and harder to hear God’s voice.”


Bishop Steenson said he had spoken with the Presiding Bishop “for her counsel and prayers,” and said he would ask the House of Bishops for permission to resign as the ordinary of his diocese. He said he would do this by the end of the year, and added that he hoped then to be released from his ordination vows in The Episcopal Church.

He called the bishops’ meeting last March “a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”


Regarding his move to the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Steenson said, “I believe that the Lord now calls me in this direction. It amazes me, after all of these years, what a radical journey of faith this must necessarily be. To some it seems foolish; to others disloyal; to others an abandonment.”

Bishop Steenson will be the third bishop of The Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic this year. Bishop Dan Herzog of Albany moved shortly after his retirement in January. Bishop Clarence C. Pope, retired Bishop of Fort Worth, returned to Roman Catholicism in August.

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Deacon Volker

posted September 23, 2007 at 4:38 pm

I think conversion/reversion is one of the most courageous and honest responses to God’s call in our lives. For the laity, the answer to conversion must certainly come only after countless hours of prayer and struggle. I have no way of imagining the pain and hardship the clerics that hear and answer the whisper to “come home” must go through. I can only urge all of us to offer our unceasing prayer and support to those that do follow the call. Like the original twelve…they more than most, will truly leave ALL behind to follow Him! My prayers are ever with you!

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted September 23, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Considering the number of evangelical Protestant scholars and leading Episcopalians and Anglicans–all of a strong and deep faith–who have become Catholic over the past few years certainly puts a major hole in the arguments of those left-wing Catholics who want to see radical changes made in the Catholic Church. Their stated premise is that without radical change Catholicism will lose its appeal. But lose its appeal to who?? Those who have become more secular than Catholic??? Let us pray for all these converts who are climbing aboard the bark of St. Peter.

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posted September 23, 2007 at 10:57 pm

My Episcopal church in Brookline Massachusetts has been a refuge for many former Roman Catholics. I am one myself. They find there a love of Jesus, scripture, and tradition — but a love leavened with reason and tolerance. When we celebrate the Eucharist it is with the consciousness that Christ turned no one away in his earthly ministry. I would not hesitate to wish anyone leaving my church for a Roman Catholic parish that their spiritual journey might be blessed. Perhaps you might do the same for the many who have left the RC church in recent years.–

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Brendan McGrath

posted September 24, 2007 at 1:32 am

Anonymous — Reason and tolerance are available at select Catholic locations, see parish bulletins for details. The places that have the most in stock are our Jesuit retailers.On the other hand, perhaps reason and tolerance might interfere with the long-running entertaining soap opera that we produce. This century of “As the Church Turns” promises more excitement and drama than ever, as a sex abuse scandal explodes onto the scene! I can’t wait for this century to be released on DVD — i.e., history books. Critics are raving that it’s going to be the most exciting century since the 16th; things should really heat up once sweeps starts in the ’30s. I’m SOOOO rooting for Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches to get back together! RCC + EOC = 2-GETHER 4-EVER!!!

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted September 24, 2007 at 10:46 am

Truth is one of the most important issues involving the churches and its members for didn’t Christ say “I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” The Catholic Church turns noone away. She preaches the Truth and then people decide whether to accept the Truth or walk away–as they did from Christ when He taught his powerful Teaching on His Body and Blood, or as when the rich young man was told to sell what he had and give to the poor. The New Testament has other such examples. And Christ did not tolerate the intolerable as the list of “Woes” directed to the scribes and pharisees and lawyers shows.He had a millstone ready (and which should have been used on pedophile priests). In fact Christ never used the word “tolerate” that I can recall. But he did say he had come to bring the sword which would even divide families at their very core. One reason a number of Episcopal bishops whose reputations as compassionate pastors and scholars are high have swum the Tiber is that they have concluded the famed Episcopal reputation for “reason and tolerance” is now being used to warp or eliminate basic Christian doctrines and moral Truths as well as Biblical teachings

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posted September 29, 2007 at 3:52 am

Jesus is the Way the Truth $ the Life and yet Rudy has ran from that and still does to this day. He locks up criminals b/c they’ve murdered others which is morally wrong and yet he allows $ supports the killing of innocent unborn babies which is morally wrong, has cheated on 1 if not both of his past wives…What kind of an example is this? He supports the sexually crazed society by supporting non-abstinence education, no choice on where parents can send their children to school while the public schools indoctrinate students with an self-ego attitude about life…Rudy talks with a silver tongue…Nearly all his appointments as mayor of New York were democrats and pro-abortionists…CAN YOU HONESTLY TRUST THIS GUY?

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Loye Young

posted October 3, 2007 at 9:18 pm

I myself became a Catholic from the Episcopal Church USA about three years ago. I left about a year after the infamous General Convention of the ECUSA when it approved the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of Vermont. What convinced me was NOT that fact that Mr. Robinson is an openly gay bishop who left his wife to take up a gay lifestyle. There are those in the church who make a plausible argument that the church should read more closely the words of scripture, in light of current cultural mores and of our developing understanding of the biology and ethos of sexuality. On balance, I don’t agree with the argument, but to the extent it remains faithful the the words of our Lord and the faith of the Apostles, it is not unworthy of a hearing.But that was not the attitude or reasoning of the Episcopal General Convention. The argument to approve Mr. Robinson amounted to this: The ancient Church wrote the Bible a long time ago; so the modern, more hip Church is free to ignore the Bible. Any religious organization who decides not to be bound by scripture has stepped off a cliff into a chasm that goes straight to hell. The early Church adopted the canon of scripture because it needed authoritative evidence of the faith handed down from the Apostles, who heard it straight from the mouth of Our Lord. A more than casual read of the canon makes clear that it wasn’t screened for ideological or cultural comfort. The canon was accepted because it faithfully and accurately expresses the received faith and experiences of the eyewitnesses to and participants in the events of our Lord’s life and the founding of the Church. I grew up a Southern Baptist, with sola scriptura our guide. I joined the Episcopal church in college, finding it to be more reasonable and thoughtful than the fundamentalist churches I’d belonged to before. What I have found in the Catholic church is the same fidelity to scripture of my beloved Baptist pastors together with the time-tested wisdom and piety of the historic Catholic and Apostolic Faith. Many theologians and clergy quietly admit that while the piety may differ, the theology of conservative evangelicals and of Catholics has in our lifetime converged so dramatically that it is hard to tell the difference to any practical degree. The real schismatics in Christendom are the mainstream Protestant denominations, which are presiding over the quiet evaporation of their congregations. When a church focuses on trying to make its members feel good, the members quit showing up on Sundays and but stay active in good deed organizations like the Rotary Club instead. (At least the Rotarians meet at more reasonable times.) But when the Church proclaims the power of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, to transform the lives of everyday sinners, people flock to its doors and are transfigured into the likeness of God. (And by coincidence the Rotary Club ends up with members who have an earnest and cheerful desire to serve the community.)To the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Communion that tolerates it I say, “You have left the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. You are welcome back at any time. Until then, I will miss you.”God’s peace,Loye YoungLaredo, Texas

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