Why Are So Many Evangelicals Turning to the Catholic Church?

Why Are So Many Evangelicals Turning to the Catholic Church?
Some of Southern Evangelical Seminary’s Students Are Becoming Catholic—and Here’s Why
by Kathy Schiffer 07/10/2016

Douglas Beaumont was a pretty solid Evangelical Christian, by his own admission. For twenty years, he lived in that tradition—studying at an Evangelical seminary, then teaching at the same institution, and helping the seminary founder and president with his study of systematic theology. Beaumont authored several books which were published by Evangelical publishers, and he was pretty well known around the country.

So what caused Doug—along with dozens of students, alumni and professors from a conservative, Evangelical seminary—to leave behind the Evangelical tradition which had been their spiritual home, and to enter into communion with Rome?

Why were so many students from Southern Evangelical Seminary willing to risk losing their jobs, ministries, and even family and friends to embrace a religion they once rejected as false or even heretical?

Read more: ncregister.com/blog/kschiffer/why-are-so-many-evangelicals-turning-to-the-catholic-church/#ixzz4EIRngA9y

If I understand correctly, Evangelicals believe basically what Catholics believe without the traditions of the Church like the Sacraments, Papacy and Mary. A devoted Evangelical who depends on just the Bible alone would eventually find that his spiritual life is more the richer with those things that he misses without being a Catholic. Many ex-Evangelicals turned Catholics testified to this fact.

It is quite natural that they should become Catholics.

In my personal experience, this is a decent generalization, with maybe a few caveats. Most evangelicals I have met usually take the most offense at the Catholic Church’s claim that it is the one true Church, as if it is degenerating their church or congregation. On the other hand, many Evangelicals seem to line up very closely with Catholics on hot-button social justice issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and even in some cases, contraception.

It has always been my opinion, that at least in US where Evangelicals make up a significant portion of Christians, that the Catholic Church would be better served by focusing ecumenical efforts towards Evangelical churches and congregations, rather than most of the mainline denominations. If the end goal of ecumenical activities is to encourage other Christians to come back to the Catholic Church, I think there is a far greater chance of success with Evangelicals rather than other mainline denominations such as Presbyterians and Episcopalians that now accept gay marriage, exceptions for abortion, etc., where the idea of reunification with these denominations is basically hopeless. My experience is that people will seldom change their mind on these issues once they have made up their minds, but you could potentially bring someone around to the idea of submitting to the Pope and the Church’s authority if the history of the Church and the reasoning is explained well enough to them.

“So many?”

I think the author ought to give some actual numbers and percentages before using such a broad term as “so many.”

This is an excellent post. I think you are 100% dead-on.

Bringing mainline Protestantism back home is a lost cause. I think as a Church we should be looking to evangelize the Evangelicals.

To be fair, many Catholics leave the Church to be Evangelical as well. All though i would argue they are not properly catechized and would not leave if they knew what they had, but i digress.

The most telling sentence in that article is right here:

“Even though I had studied the Scriptures, I wanted to know more about the formation of the biblical canon

Read more: ncregister.com/blog/kschiffer/why-are-so-many-evangelicals-turning-to-the-catholic-church/#ixzz4EJ7UCkgO

This was pretty much a deal breaker for me. Objectively studying the formation of the Bible, which protestants hold so dear, opens you up to the idea of Sacred Tradition. Because prior to that, “tradition” is like a curse word in their circles. But once the necessity for it becomes apparent, other dominoes start to fall in place. Then you must be honest with yourself if you really love the Lord and seriously consider becoming Catholic.

People don’t hate or dislike the Church, they hate or dislike misconceptions about the Church. Her teachings are sound and irrefutable.


Yes, for example, this is a good article (by a Catholic convert) that looks at some of the flows, though only in the US.

Not many people become Catholic, plenty of people leave the Catholic faith. And if they don’t become nones, it’s likely they become Evangelicals (although also mainline Protestants).

Which isn’t to say the question of why Evangelicals become Catholics isn’t interesting. It is interesting to see what causes people to convert, but the article seems to imply the opposite of what the trend really is.

I agree. I would guess that the number of Catholics who leave the Church to become evangelical protestants far outweighs the number of evangelicals who are becoming Roman Catholic, particularly in North and South America.

I also agree. But I don’t have statistics.

In theory it seems natural though. The Catholic Church has more doctrine and more issues that are not open to interpretation. So it’s tempting for someone to use the pretense of “me, Jesus and my bible” to choose a communion less restrictive to personal opinion.

I’ve always heard that the Evangelical Free churches are the fastest growing. There will always be exceptions.

It may be true that more Catholics become Evangelicals than the other way around, but the interesting thing is that it is poorly catechized (i.e., ignorant) Catholics that leave the Church and it is very educated Evangelical seminarians and pastors that are becoming Catholic. That certainly speaks volumes.

That sounds correct, thank you.

Maybe a distinction would be in order.

The term “Evangelical” is sometimes taken to include “Fundamentalist”, sometimes not. But they aren’t the same thing, even though some Evangelicals might also be Fundamentalists, particularly in the South.

Some Evangelical churches are very bit as permissive/liberal as are some of the mainline churches nowadays. My guess is that when Catholics leave the Catholic Church and go Evangelical, it’s mostly to these kinds.

Fundamentalist groups are not, by my observation at least, receiving a lot of Catholics. It’s the other way around with them. My parish is joined by converts to the extent of maybe 5%/year, mostly by Fundamentalists or unchurched with Fundamentalist antecedents.

Among those to whom I have talked about their conversion journey, the primary reason is the Eucharist, though moral certainty is also significant. Fundamentalist-type Evangelicals’ ideal is to grow “close to Jesus”. Only the Eucharist really answers that. But it is true that Fundamentalists and Catholics already share a lot when it comes to morality and the sense of Christian duty.

It’s just bad editorializing (?). “So many” is pretty much a weasel term.

Isn’t one of the concerns of the RC leadership in Latin America is that there is a large number of Catholics converting to Evangelical churches? Pew has given us some numbers - that before 1960, 90% were Catholic. Now it is down to 69%, and most of those were raised Catholic but converted. And I found the list of reasons quite fascinating - they want a person relationship with God. Also how church members create a strong community makes a big difference.They see a caring group of Christians and very much want that. Mormons are big on that too in their conversion successes.


To add a side note, in my area the Episcopal Church is filled with ex-Catholics, including a number of clergy. It is an easy move liturgically and theologically.

It is true that more people leave the Catholic Church for Protestant ranks than the other way around. But why? I haven’t run across many folks who have left the Church for serious theological/doctrinal reasons.

Typically, people leave the Catholic Church because they want to divorce and remarry at will, to contracept without guilt, or to ease their mind about some other moral issue that Protestants will overlook.

Conversely, the reason Protestant LEADERS and seminarians become Catholic (and there is an impressive list of these) is because while they have their moral house in order, they become convinced that Catholic doctrine is correct after carefully studying scripture and the and the writings of the Early Church Fathers.

In brief:

  • We lose people who want looser moral guidelines.
  • We gain people who want theological clarity and orthodoxy.

Very true.

Catholics who leave for Protestantism often feel that they’re leaving something bad for something good.

Protestants who leave for Catholicism often feel that they’re leaving something good for something better.

That’s how it seems to me, anyway, from what I’ve read…

Very important observation there. :thumbsup:

This is empirically not true. If you look at the surveys, see this article for example, in the US, people who leave Catholicism roughly divide between 1/2 who become Nones and 1/2 who become Protestants.

Of the ones who become Protestants, 2/3 join Evangelical churches as opposed to 1/3 who join mainstream Protestant denominations. Of this half who are becoming Protestants, their main reasons for leaving revolve around wanting more from their religion, not less. They are not (unlike perhaps the nones) being driven by disagreements over particular doctrines.

They are not seeking weaker morals in general. I can certainly believe some are, and of the ones who become Nones, it may have as much to do with libertinism as lack of belief in God. But the force that’s driving US Catholics to become US Protestants overall is not a search for loose morals.

I don’t have as good a grasp of the statistics and surveys in Latin America as I do in the US, but I have travelled extensively in rural Central America including places where there are thriving Pentecostal churches. I’ve spoken with people there just out of interest and I can tell you that those people are definitely not leaving Catholicism for looser morals. That’s anecdotal and so I can’t draw the same conclusions, but I would be very surprised if the exodus of Latin American Catholics to Protestantism, especially the Pentecostal kind, is related to looser morals at all.

I don’t doubt that if you talk to a Protestant pastors who became Catholic, what you find is that they are the sort of people who like dogma and orthodoxy and that they find it in Catholicism. But it’s a disservice to the mission of Catholicism to minister to the whole world to not grasp the facts of what is happening with deconversions.

This survey (pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/) shared earlier does agree with your anecdotal evidence that looser morals are not driving people to go from Catholicism to Protestantism in Latin America.
The top 3 reasons people give for leaving Catholicism for Protestantism is: Seeking a personal connection with God (81%), Enjoy style of worship at new church (69%), Wanted a greater emphasis on morality (60%). Obviously people could check off multiple answers, but these were the reasons that people gave for leaving Catholicism.

Also interesting is a survey that shows in all 20 countries surveyed (including US Hispanics), Catholics were much more likely to favor gay marriage as compared to Protestants.

The gay marriage fact isn’t too surprising though. In Latin America, generally you are Catholic by default, so those non-church going agnostics are included in the Catholic part of the survey. Most Latin American Protests, as I recall, are in fact converts. You don’t both to convert unless you really care!

I more fair comparison of whether Catholics support gay marriage more than Protestants would be surveys of the church going communities in each.

But, yes, I’m not at all surprised that loose morals have nothing to do with Latin Americans becoming Protestants.