When I was a teenager living in Houston, my family belonged to the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church places great emphasis upon Christian formation and youth ministry. Although my home parish was small, it was generous in the things it did to help us grow in our faith. My youth group was often invited to events with other youth in and around Houston. During one of those events, I had an enormous personal epiphany concerning the Incarnation. The realization that God’s love for me and for all creation is most perfectly expressed in this way moved me then and moves me still.
Not long afterwards, I was invited by a friend to attend a service at the Episcopal Church. It was another personal epiphany. Although I was very happy with my own church, I went to the Episcopal Church every time there was an opportunity. The liturgy and the sacramental life spoke to me in a particular way and I appreciated what I came to know as the via media. I think I knew even then on some level that I was an Anglican in both heart and mind.
On Maundy Thursday of 1966 when I was a high school senior, I attended a service at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. During that service, I had a clear sense of a vocation for ordained ministry. Because of family considerations, I pursued my vocation in the United Methodist Church. Following graduation from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, I was ordained and had a fruitful ministry in that church for twenty-five years.
While I was a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I would occasionally think about exploring ministry in the Episcopal Church. This always seemed to happen at times when I was discouraged or unhappy. I always had good arguments for staying where I was and God never allowed me to leave in such a spiritual condition. Then, on a Friday in September of 1995, at a time when I was very contented in my ministry and following a conversation with a lady about her rector having been called to a parish in another city, I found myself thinking of the Episcopal ministry again. I immediately started reviewing my usual arguments for the status quo. None of them worked any longer. Something had changed within me. That led to a time of discernment with my wife and the Episcopal Bishop of Texas, The Right Reverend Claude E. Payne.
We met with the Commission on Ministry, I took the General Ordination Exam, and underwent the customary medical, psychological, and background checks. While Gay and I were prepared to spend a year in the Anglican Studies program at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, the bishop and commission did not think it was necessary.
On May 28 of the following year, I delivered my retirement speech at the Methodist Annual Conference in the morning and Bishop Payne received us into the Episcopal Church in his chapel that same afternoon. At the invitation of The Very Reverend Walter H. Taylor, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, and with the consent of Bishop Payne, I was given an opportunity to serve for three years on the staff of Christ Church Cathedral, returning to my spiritual home. I was ordained Deacon, then Priest, and accepted a call to be Rector of Galveston’s Trinity Church nine years ago.
The journey to the Episcopal Priesthood was one filled with many miraculous manifestations of God’s hand at work in my life and in the life of my family. God opened doors and invited me to walk through them from one place of ministry to another. Colleagues and friends graciously supported my transition in ways I never could have imagined. Gay has walked beside me every step of the way.
The United Methodist Church gave me a theological education and provided a place of ministry for me. In that experience, I had more than my share of victories and probably fewer than my share of disappointments. I am grateful to God for those years and all the people who were a part of that season of my life.
The Episcopal Church welcomed me with my prior experience and added to it the unique gifts of its communion – The Book of Common Prayer, the sacramental life, the historic episcopate, the practical governance, and the Anglican Communion. Now, fourteen years after that transition, I am more convinced than ever of the rightness of my discernment. I look to the future with a firm commitment to serving this Church with steadfast devotion and a prayer that, with God’s help, my ministry will be fruitful.
It seems to me that there are things God wants accomplished specifically through the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. There are countless souls who are hungry for a Church that presents the Gospel the way we do. God will bless our efforts if we will remain focused on the mission to which he calls us and avoid anything that distracts us from it or separates us from one another.