Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rev. Phillip Johnson, to be received into the Church

The Rev. Phillip Max Johnson, Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, NJ, and a Senior member of the Society of the Holy Trinity, a conservative Lutheran ministerium dedicated to the renewal of Lutheran ministry and church, will be received, Lord willing, into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, together with his wife, by Fr. J. Scott Newman, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, SC, on August 20, 2006. His son was one of my students, at the top of his class, which accounts for my added interest in him.

I found a couple samples of his writing in the Newsletter of the Society of the Holy Trinity (Societas Trinitatis Sanctae) online -- one entitled "WITH OUR BROTHER PRIESTS IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH" (Volume 5, Number 2, Pentecost 2002), the other "HOLY LEARNING" and "STS FOR ROMAN CATHOLIC PARISH PRIESTS?" (Volume 5, Number 1, Lent 2002). In the latter, he wrote (in 2002): "As an evangelical catholic, I continue to believe the way ahead for “Lutheran confessional renewal” leads away from all self-contained “Lutheranism” and toward a deeper lived baptismal solidarity with other orthodox Christians, most urgently with Roman Catholics." Prophetic.

In a personal email communication, Rev. Johnson tells me that he will be studying at the John Paul II Institute (at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.) following his reception into the Church. He ways that he expects to continue "to ponder the glories of the humanum, especially the rootedness of human love in the Love of the Blessed and Holy Trinity." As to the future, he says, "My vocation is, of course, in the Church's hands. There is plenty of fear and sadness in 'starting over.' But it doesn't compare to the relief of finally starting" -- a relief to which other converts, from Newman to Chesterton, have likewise testified. And, in a personal note, he adds that Nathan, his son and my former student, is currently up in Nova Scotia, serving in the L'Arche community there. He also states that August 13th will be his final Sunday at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, where he has served for 18 years. Please remember him in your prayers for that doubtless difficult day.

May God bless Philip Johnson, his family, and all recent newcomers to the Catholic Church, and also make them a blessing to the Church they've come to serve.

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