Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Friday, June 30, 2006


Some thoughts on leaving a church . . .

Let me begin by saying that this is not intended to be a "personal testimony" nor an apologia for my own ecclesial choices. That is not the point of this particular post.

What I
DO want to talk about are what seem to this observer to be very typical reactions to those like myself who have left the CEC for another Christian body (regardless of what that body happens to be. Contrary to the opinion of many within the CEC all those who leave do NOT go to Rome -- but that is a possible subject for another post.)

The three comments I am most likely to hear, go something like this:

"You left us because you were never one of us in the first place"


"You never understood the mission of the CEC in the first place"


Okay, you've left us. Now go away and leave us alone; how dare you make any commentary at all."

All three of these statements are ones I'm personally very familiar with -- and all are fallicies. None stand up to honest critique and debate.

To suggest that "
one left because one was never 'one of us' in the first place" first is just not logical. Does this mean that although Newman left the Church of England for Rome "he was never truly an Anglican"? Historically, that just won't wash! Or that Richard John Neuhaus was never a Lutheran, because he became a Catholic? Or that Father "X" was never a Baptist, because he felt called to the CEC? The list could go on and on -- and never make any more sense than these examples give. Unless, of course, the one making the statement uses "one of us" in a gnostic sense -- as in, "you never really had the true insight" or "you never spoke in tongues enough, so you weren't real" or (with apologies to Groucho Marx) "you never said the secret word"! If THIS is what is meant -- then the theological dissentions within the CEC are worse than I thought.

To suggest that "
one left because one never understood the true mission of the CEC" is a similar, but not identical argument. On the one hand it suggests that the "true mission" was, again, some sort of secret to which only a few were privy. I honestly don't believe that the leadership -- past or present -- of the CEC would truly wish to go down that road. On the other hand, such a statement has been used -- both in my hearing, and to me personally -- as a deliberately deragotory remark, as in "you never did get it right -- let me fix you".

This suggestion also ignores two potential realities. 1) That many of the people who have recently left the CEC are
NOT "Johnny-come-latelies" but rather have served in the CEC for a decade or more. (Considering the denomination has only a 14 year history, this point is rather telling). 2) That perhaps the VISION of the CEC HAS changed -- and what is being expressed now is NOT what many of us originally "signed on to" way back when. This suggestion takes any responsibility for the turmoil currently being experienced in the denomination away from denominational leadership -- and blames the poor bishop, priest, or deacon who actually did believe in the ORIGINAL VISION.

Finally, the "
okay, now you've left us; go away and leave us alone, and don't you dare even comment etc.," sounds, I must admit, extremely petulant. There are two potential problems here. 1) When this type of statement has been used (at least against a former member of the clergy) it has been used to try to silence that clergyman -- while behind him, and against him, the rumor mill can spin. I have first-hand experience with this. When I left, I kept my mouth closed for many months -- only to find out that there were some who were deliberately using my silence (which I had promised to give) against me. 2) Frequently, from a managerial standpoint, the reason why a person has left an organization is considered important! Perhaps the person actually had valid points! Perhaps the organization needs to take stock and figure out where the problem really lies. (The Scripture passage: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" comes to mind.)

I know that I speak for many when I say that I truly hope and pray that the CEC can solve its own internal difficulties -- difficulties which, in my experience, are largely of its own making. I know that I speak for many when I say that I honestly wish no one in the CEC harm. But as I said in my 2006 paper (and in a previous post)

The Convergence Movement as a whole, and especially the emerging denominations, must end the hostility -- and I say end, because the hostility is already there -- toward those who have found the movement to be a bridge and not an end in and of itself. Libel and slander, open shunning of church members who have been called elsewhere, degregations and depositions of clergy without due process etc., are abominations which must cease at once. Such actions destroy lives, scandalize the faithful, and are unworthy of those who bear the Name of Christ.

Papa Z

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Blogger Pontificator said...


Welcome to the Catholic Church.

I was an Episcopal priest for 25 years. I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church a year ago.

I have continued to write about the Episcopal Church since my conversion to Catholicism. Very quickly I received emails telling me that now that I was Catholic I had no business opining on Episcopal matters. I understood why folks would say that. My response was and is that I have an obligation to help others, for their souls' sake, to abandon a sinking ship.

Please come by Pontifications and share your thoughts.

3:44 PM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Thank you, my friend, for your remarks. I will gladly visit your blog.

Many blessings,


4:05 PM  
Blogger PadreT said...

I couldn't agree with you nailed this thought completely...perhaps because you lived it. I always thought such remarks smacked of arrogance and hinted of the gnosticism hidden in us all. It is one thing to be 2000 years old and lay claim to be THE church, but at way shy of two decades our first lesson should have been faith and toward one another...

9:03 PM  
Blogger Fr John said...

I was a Priest in the CEC in the relatively early years (I remember attending the consecration of Fr. Randolph Sly as Bishop) but eventually found my way to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Although the ideals of the CEC were good I found it puzzling that the CEC could claim to be a branch of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" without having a communicant relationship with either Rome or Orthodoxy.

That connection seemed to me to be the goal of what the CEC should have been but alas, it was not to be. In that way the CEC disappointed me and I suspect that my hunger for Orthodoxy disappointed them as well but what kind of branch is it that is separated from the tree?

I experienced some of that hostility that others have felt in the way that my departure was handled as I was essentially defrocked for the crime of choosing Orthodoxy!

One would think that this would be, after all, merely a transfer if the CEC actually recognized the validity of Orthodoxy, or Rome for that matter, as true "branches" as it were of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. But I believe the truth is that every departure to Rome or Orthodoxy in the CEC is a reminder to all in that body that despite the claims something very important, real, and necessary is missing and so rather than make the changes required to be in union with Rome or an Orthodox jurisdiction it is often easier to anathematize those whose only offense is to grow deeper roots in the Faith.

Still I am grateful for the CEC because they set me on the path to my home and feel sorry for their troubles even as I am convinced those issues will end when they come in humility to either Rome or Constantinople.

Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
LaCrosse, WI

11:18 AM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Greetings, Fr. John,

I'm so happy that you have "found a place to land." Most of the guys you would have known from the Central Province have now left.

May God bless you in your ministry.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Eric said...


Without addressing recent happenings in the CEC I can say yes & amen in response to your post. As a former priest in the Central Province ( I resigned my function as a CEC priest in May 06) I and my family have not heard from any of our brothers and sisiters in the CEC and it has left us feeling shunned.

The CEC leadership talks about the CEC being a bridge but there seems to be little grace for those who are called to cross the bridge. On my part I continue to hold great affection in my heart for all my brothers in the Central Province.

By the way we are coming into the Roman Catholic Church and for us we know that the journey is over! Grace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Eric in
Laramie, WY

10:59 AM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

My brother Eric,

Believe me, I feel your hurt and pray for you.

Please feel free to contact me privately.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Hal Duston said...


I don’t know if you will see this, and not to take over David Z's blog, but I do send you greetings. From my point of view your departure seemed sudden and immediate, as one day you were there, and the next you were not. I see that you have transferred to Laramie, as you had intended, and hope and pray that all is well there with you and your family. I remember with much fondness our discussions at dinner after seminary class. Know that I do value what time we did spend worshipping in the same church.


3:51 PM  
Blogger docringo said...

Brother David:
Thank you for you professional and discerning comments regarding the current state of the CEC.
Please send a copy of the 2006 article.
Because of Christ,
Doc Ringo

2:59 PM  
Blogger shana said...

Fr. Dave, I don't know about other areas of the CEC, but in our diocese and in our church especially, we have been disucssing the necessities of allowing our bretheren to practice their faith where God has called them. We are called to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ, not to become bogged down in denominationalism. I personally believe that the CEC has great potential. It is a young denomination with many wrinkles left to smooth out, but as each problem is dealt with, we are able to grow.

We miss you and your family terribly. I tried contacting you not long after you sent a change of email, but I never heard back from you. I hope you and your family are well. How many children now? Last I knew, 8. We are up to 5 as of this past June. We've moved now as well, and are in the Waukesha area.

God's blessings, Shana Woodman

2:03 AM  

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