It didn't take long before my wife and I agreed that we felt God was leading us into the Charismatic Episcopal Church. We were meeting some wonderful people, experiencing wonderful times of worship and pretty much having a blast discovering all these new treasures from the ancient faith. In time, I took the steps necessary for ordination. It seemed like it was taking forever, but in retrospect things really moved very fast. I was eventually ordained a priest and appointed as pastor over a small mission.
In spite of the fact that I loved my new fellowship, there were still these nagging questions. During my time of investigation I had made liberal use of the internet. Quite frankly, everything would have taken much longer had it not been for this technology. I perused all kinds of sites that had anything to do with early Christianity. I especially was fond of Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican sites. It was one of the Orthodox sites that challenged me with the question: what is the Church.
I had never really given that a lot of thought before. As I look back I realize that neither the Assemblies of God nor I myself had a very developed ecclesiology (the study of the Church). The early Church believed there was only one Church. This Church was indestructible (Mt. 16:18) and therefore could not be divided. Division simply meant that one group separated itself from the Church. But the Church continued to be one.
This posed a problem for me. The CEC claimed to be in this historic stream, but they were younger than I was. If what the early Fathers said was true, then I was still separated from the one, true Church of Jesus Christ.
In all honesty, I put this off. I really liked where I was and I didn't want to go through the madness of switching churches, etc. again. It was too hard the last time.
But God is not so easily put off. First my small mission closed due to a variety of circumstances. Then the CEC went through a huge split that left me stranded. What was I to do? Where would I go?
In light of all that was taking place within me, I took it from the Lord that this was my opportunity to continue the journey. We tried an Anglican Church, but didn't really care for it as much as we thought we might. We tried an Orthodox Church and just couldn't make the cultural leap to the Byzantine liturgy. Then we tried a Catholic Church.
We were caught off guard by how much we really liked the Catholic Church. At this stage we were still very anti-Catholic in a number of areas. We didn't believe in purgatory, the papacy, or a number of the Marian doctrines. But here in this church we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. We were struck by the spirit of reverence and worship that prevailed. We decided to continue attending this church for a while until we figured out where we were going. But we also visited others.
I was wondering what we should do. Then I thought that the Fathers of the Church had guided me this far, why not let them take me all the way? If the Fathers believed in the papacy, then the Catholic Church was the way to go. If not, then we would have to find some way of becoming Orthodox, or Anglo-Catholic, or something.
I expected the Fathers to bear witness to a Church that had no central head with each bishop determining things for his own church. But that's not what I found. I found the Fathers overwhelmingly giving witness to the bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter who was universally acknowledged as the chief of the apostles. The great St. John Chrysostom, the patron saint of Orthodoxy, referred to St. Peter as the choir master- an obvious reference to his role in directing the apostolic college.
With this new insight, I realized that the papacy was right in its claims and that it meant that the Catholic Church was the one, true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. I shared my thoughts with my wife, who I was keeping informed of my studies better than the last time. While she still had some misgivings, she was willing to check it out with me. It wasn't long before we decided that this was indeed where God was leading. With joy (and some trepidation) we enlisted in RCIA.
We had found the Church in the very last place we were looking for her. But finally, the journey's end was in sight and we were about to come home!