Ernie Anderson - Testimony - February 4, 2005

Dear Harry,

This letter has been started many times and many times, I cast the beginning aside because I failed to say the first and most important thing. Thank you for your prayers and for the many years of keeping in contact even though my case seemed hopeless. You did not feel that my case was hopeless even though I went ahead with my plans for ordination in the Catholic Church.


But I was hopeless as long as I was unwilling to accept the truth and to love the truth. But you believed that God was able to show me and you maintained contact with me as did the friends. Many times, I have wanted to write you and tell you how much what you said, and more importantly, what you did, was a testimony of faith that was a lifeline. In the story below, I have tried to tell the story of God's dealings with me and to recount what God said and did through you and through the other workers and friends.


I can never thank God enough for the time and attention you and the friends gave me. I have taken out sections of a larger narrative I have been writing over the last four years so the numbered sections below are somewhat disjointed. However, I have tried to include your part and the part of the other workers who helped me over the years.


In the spring of 1967, when my brother, David, graduated from high school in Mountain Home, Idaho, I attended the baccalaureate service. Someone whom I thought was a Protestant minister was speaking. I was impressed by what he said about King Solomon seeking wisdom first and only then did he seek other things, like wealth, etc. I thought of going up and speaking the preacher because I was so impressed by his words and I can still remember what he said some thirty-six years later.


But there were many people there and many were talking with him after the service and so I did not go up. I did not know at the time that the speaker at my brother's graduation was Howard Mooney and that his companion that year in Boise was John Sterling. That is the first time I heard one of God's servants preach the Gospel. Thirteen years would pass and many things happen in my life before I heard another apostle.


Harry, this is long and maybe it is too much. But I have promised many times to put this on paper for you so that there would be a testimony of what God continues to do through his servants.


Please make any corrections that need to be made.                  



[56 paragraphs]

1. In 1980, I left the monastery at Mt. Angel and went to Europe on the Anabaptist historical tour and returned to Portland in the Fall of that year and shared an apartment with Robb Keller. Leaving Portland the following spring, 1981, I went to the train station in Portland to board the train to see my parents in Moutain Home, Idaho. In the train station, I saw the Chapmans waiting ahead of me in the long line waiting to get tickets and board the train. They had come to see Ken Chapman off on a trip to Idaho to visit his brother, Doug Chapman, who was working there with Harold Bennett that year. Milo and Sarah and Ken were happy, joking and visiting as they waited in line. They were different from the other people because the Chapmans seemed to be genuinely happy. I noted this contrast and wondered why they were so happy. When I got on the train the only seat left was the one next to Ken, so I sat down, expecting to find out why they were so happy that day. I visited with Ken throughout the trip and asked him to what religion he belonged. We spent the rest of the trip talking about this strange religion with no name, which I had never heard of before. Ken says that I said I would like to meet some of their "apostles" after I returned to Portland. The First Visit of the Apostles.


2. When I returned to Portland, I was paid the first of many visits at the apartment on Hoyt Street, by two of their missionary apostles, Harry Brownlee and Jay Wicks, who were in Portland that year. They knocked on the door and by the time I got down the stairs from our apartment on the second floor, they had left a calling card and started walking away. But when I opened the door, they came back and I invited them in. How well I remember them seated in the living room of my Victorian apartment speaking a religious language that might as well have been Persian since I understood so little of the language of the Spirit as opposed to the language of theology. But because they believed they spoke and even though their words were unintelligible, their presence, and their obvious commitment to the Gospel they preached, was so very clearly intelligible.


3. I remember asking them if they were serious in their expressed belief that they spoke the truth more reliably than the Catholic bishops and the Pope who possessed apostolic succession and so spoke with the authority Christ gave the Twelve Apostles. With simple straightforwardness, as I learned they always speak, they told me that the bishops of the Catholic Church and all the ministers, Anglican and Protestant, who trace their lineage to the Roman Church, are false prophets and hirelings. On the other hand, the two of them and all their fellow apostles represented the Christian fellowship of the New Testament. They were clear and seemingly so presumptuously certain about the fact that I almost laughed, but for the fact that their sincerity itself, merited respect, especially when compared with my cynical manner of holding on to the rational theology propounded by the Roman Church.


4. I went ahead with the stock questions I used to ask opponents of the Catholic Church whom I condescendingly termed religious fundamentalists. "So, you believe the Catholic Church is the result of a great apostasy, a general falling away, from the original teachings of Christ and the Twelve Apostles, and the Church they founded?" They answered in the affirmative.  Next question: "If that happened, then tell me, when exactly such an earth-shaking event occurred? Did everyone go to bed one night in the New Testament Church and wake up the next day in a different Church? Or did it happen more gradually over the period of a month or a year or a series of years? But such an event must not have occurred without being noticed by great numbers of Christian of that generation or century. What sources do you cite as evidence of this change, or at least, the beginning or the conclusion of such a dramatic transformation or change? You should be able to tell me when such an earth-shaking event took place and point precisely to it in the Bible or in the first century. When did it happen?" III John and evidence of rebellion against the apostolic church.


5. They quickly pointed to John the Apostle's Third Epistle as evidence of the beginning of the change. Harry Brownlee asked me if I had a Bible so we could read III John together. I said I had a Catholic Bible and he said that he could prove the Catholic Church wrong by its own Bible. They said that III John was written by John to Gaius who does possess the truth and who walks in the truth because he welcomes in love the ones sent by John. The ones whom Gaius welcomes are apostles who, for the sake of the Name of the Lord, "went forth, taking nothing," from unbelievers, to preach the Gospel just as Jesus commanded. The hospitable conduct of Gaius is contrasted with that of a local elder, Diotrephes, in whose home the church meets and who refuses to welcome the itinerant apostles even though they are sent to his locale by John.


6. What motivates Diotrephes' conduct? Why does he refuse to accept the oversight of the elder apostle and the apostles he sends? According to John, Diotrephes does this because he "loveth to have the preeminence." Harry said, "This letter shows the beginning of the Catholic Church." It indicates a breach in the unity between a local elder, who expels from the church those who do not recognize his preeminence in the local church, and the Apostle John and the workers John sends. The implication is that there are two churches - one that continues to accept apostolic oversight and the other which recognizes only the oversight of local elders - and that the division between these two churches was maintained.


7. I had just finished studying the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles in the theology course at Mount Angel Seminary, using the commentary of Raymond Brown. This commentary mentions the division between John's community and the community of Diotrephes on its first page. Raymond Brown says that the actions of Diotrephes described imply an "emerging church structure," and that that led to the hierarchical Catholic Church. Brown says this structure was developed as a reaction against false traveling teachers whose activities in the churches caused division and provoked "the cessation mentioned in I and II John" The Apostle mandated the exclusion of false teachers who sought to visit the outlying house-churches: "If anyone comes to you who does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into the house and greet him..." (II John 10-11). So, in addition to those who remained loyal to the Apostle, there are at least two other schismatic groups who have separated from the Apostolic church and were put out of the house-church of Diotrephes.


8. The first schismatic church is made up of those who recognize the preeminent authority of Diotrephes, and who (willingly or due to fear of being excluded by Diotrephes) obey his command not to welcome the apostolic missionaries sent by John into their homes.  The second group is made up of those who listen to false teachers and believe the gospel they preached and abandoned the truth they heard in the beginning.  They seceded from the apostolic community and formed heretical house-churches. These were gatherings of heretics like the Gnostic groups we hear so much about in the next century. Here, according to the Harry and the learned theologian Raymond Brown, we see the beginning of the communion established by local presbyters like Diotrephes, which later developed into the Roman Catholic Church. This development represents a belief that security is to be found in hierarchical structure rather than in the apostolic ministry and the anointing of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus.


9. Harry Brownlee and Jay Wicks had not studied Raymond Brown's commentary, but their conclusions and his, based on III John, concerning divisions in the early church were in harmony. However, Raymond Brown and the Catholic Church saw the emergence of monarchical overseers (bishops), like Diotrephes, in the local house-churches as a normal and necessary development in the life of first century Christianity. That has been the interpretation ever since the time of Diotrephes. On the other hand, the workers who came to my apartment that afternoon, saw the events of III John as evidence the emergence of "the fallen church" of Roman Catholicism and they were not shy about saying so, in spite of the fact that they were bucking a tradition two thousand years old. But they believed they were the living embodiment of a tradition older than the one from which the Catholic Church came. I had already studied this in theology, but had not interpreted it correctly. This passage and its correct interpretation by Harry Brownlee provided the proof I had asked for supporting the idea of a change in the original apostolic church. He opened a reasonable basis for doubts concerning the claims of the Roman Church and her bishops, "who also love the preeminence" and are ready to exclude any who question their authority.


10. Harry and his companion also said that the churches were not building like we have today, but in the New Testament they were gatherings of believers in ordinary homes. Raymond Brown also says, "Churches at this time consisted of a small group of people meeting in a house, usually that of a wealthy person who would have a house large enough to accommodate them." But I said that with time and the growth in the number of Christians necessitated larger buildings. I asked them what they would do if all the people who belong to the Catholic Church belonged to their church, what house would be big enough. They said they would have as many houses for churches as were needed so that everyone could meet as they did in the New Testament.


11. I couldn't imagine how all the Catholics throughout the centuries who did not belong to their Way could not have found salvation. Harry said that it wasn't his business to decide who was and who wasn't saved. That was God's job to judge each one according to his deeds. But he did say that to be saved, one had to accept the truth and do what Jesus said. I asked about all the people in the world who had no chance to hear. He again said that God was in charge of all those people and their salvation. He had known many Catholics and many of them wanted to please God. They just didn't know the Bible and weren't taught the truth by the priests. Harry said, "My job is not to judge but to go out and preach according to the command of Jesus." That is what he had done for all the years since he started. Over the years, he said he had seen young people like his companion, Jay, leaving all they had and going out to sow the seed of God's Word in the prime of their young lives. That God was still calling such men to go out convinced him that what Jesus set up was still working.


12. But I persevered with the questions I was accustomed to put to those who are fundamentalists and who reject the authority of the Roman Bishops. The next question was, "If you don't have the standard of the Creed established by the authority of the Bishops to determine what true teaching is, then how can you tell false teachers from true teachers? The Bible can be interpreted in a hundred different ways. What can you rely on? Anybody can go out preaching, claiming to be sent by the Lord. Only those approved by the Bishops can be trusted."


13. Their answer was that one must rely on the anointing of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would lead believers into all truth and who would remind them of all that Jesus had taught. "Your anointing is from the Holy One, so all of you have knowledge"(I John 2:20). "The anointing that you received from Christ abides in you; and so you have no need for anyone to teach you" (I John 2:27). Catholics say only the bishops and the pope have this anointing.  Only they can teach. Harry's answer was, "If you have the anointing," they said, "you will know the truth." All believers are anointed with the Holy Spirit and can trust the inner guidance and the knowledge of the truth that comes from the anointing of the Holy Spirit.


14. So I asked, "Are you saying that all the priests, the bishops and the Pope are false teachers and false prophets?" Without batting an eye, Harry Brownlee said, "Yes." False teachers are also known by their fruit; the kinds of converts they make by their teaching. Wolves in sheep's clothing are known by their conduct. They say one thing and do another. On both counts, the Roman bishops are guilty and have always been guilty. They claim to be teachers and to correct the errors of false teachers and heretics, but they teach falsehoods based on human tradition. They condemn those who leave the Roman Church, but, at the same time, they try to force people to believe in their creeds and the Creeds cause division. Like the converts of the Pharisees, those converted by the priests become more unloving and more pharisaical than their teachers. Harry said, "They are the false prophets and Antichrists prophesied by John." They claim the title of Teacher, Rabbi, and Father and pretend to have inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Yet they condemn those who truly rely on the Paraclete as the teacher sent by Jesus. They are dead branches on the vine. Harry said, "Jesus did not set up such a ministry." The system of ministry based on the commission Jesus gave the Apostles is based on trust in the work of the Holy Spirit working in preachers.


15. I said, "Jesus called Peter the rock because of the revelation given to Peter by the Father. In every generation there has to be a Peter who receives the revelation of the truth and that person is the bishop of Rome." How can the truth be made secure if there isn't some one like Peter, who is the foundation and the governor of the Church?" Harry said Peter was never the Catholic Bishop of Rome, "he was an apostle among the other apostles who all had the same call.  Jesus is the rock and the foundation on which the house is built and Jesus is the head of the church. The rock was the revelation of who Jesus is and every believer is given this revelation by God."


16. But Harry and Jay weren't finished with my notions of the exalted position of Peter and the bishops of the Catholic Church. They asked me what the passage in the Gospel meant where Jesus said, "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit, for every tree is known by its own fruit. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" And further, what did Jesus mean when He said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Then Harry asked, "And who were the false prophets Jesus spoke about when He said, 'Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.'"


17. My first thought was what the Catholic Church says, that wandering preachers like Harry and his companion are the wolves in sheep's clothing because they are not sent by the Catholic Church. But their sincerity made it hard for me to attach that label to them. And, of course, I took offense at his line of questioning because I knew he meant to attach the false prophet label to Catholic priests and that the evil fruit born of their corrupt teaching would be the converts they make. I said that Jesus could judge the Pharisees because He could see into their hearts, but I asked Harry how he could presume to judge the hearts, the motives, and the intentions of all the Catholic priests? How could he say that the millions of Catholics (including myself, a convert of one of those priests) were corrupt fruit and unsaved? How could he say that only those who accepted his Gospel in his little fellowship were saved? How could God care for the many so little that He would send out so few to truly preach the Gospel?


18. The real danger to the truth and to the salvation of humanity, according to Harry, are the men who want to take the place of Jesus and who do not do what Jesus said and who ignore the Bible and who are not concerned with ministering to the needs of the flock for which Christ died. The false prophets want the first places in the Church and they do not seek to feed the sheep with the Word of God. They are the thieves and the destroyers who climb over the walls and come to devour the flock. Jesus talked about them specifically in John's Gospel. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. They are anti-Christ and, as Jesus said, the devil is their father. There is always someone ready to take the place of Jesus and to lord it over the flock contrary to the words of Jesus to his apostles. They justify their way of life by their own traditions about the authority they say they have received from Jesus and which they use as an excuse to abuse the sheep. The danger to the salvation of humanity is the traditions of men which annul the word and the will of God. The fruit of the tradition of men fills the sects men have set up and it is the same generation after generation.


19. Harry told me that he could show me in the Scriptures what true servants of the Lord and of His Gospel should be like. Again, he found the passages in the Catholic Bible, reading Luke 9 and 10, stressing that the one sent by Jesus were without salary. They went out two by two, leaving all behind; that they lived in the homes of the people whom they ministered to, as did Jesus, the Son of Man who had no place to lay His head. Harry pointed out that they were called by God, not men and for the love of lost sinners, they went out wherever god sent them to preach the Gospel which "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." He said that the true ministry was the one whose ministers lived as Jesus did and who accepted His words and did them. Not like those in the churches who do a job for pay and parade around in clothing like the Pharisees and those who built temples of stone. Harry asked me, "Do you see in the Pope a man following the example of Christ?" He asked, "Are you happy with the actions of the popes and the traditions they created?" If I were happy, then there was nothing more to say. I could be the judge of the simple words, simple truths, spoken by Jesus in the Gospel. Harry said, "You decide which way to go." I was not happy with the ministry of the Catholic Church, I knew the truth of the words of Jesus and who were the real enemies of humanity; men like myself who chose to rely on the traditions of men rather than the words of Jesus and who looked for authority and security in the institutional church.


20. It was impossible to understand how the supposed good of apostolic succession arose from the evil of rebellion against apostolic authority on the part of an elder in a local house-church who "loved the preeminence." How could an act of rebellious self advancement have been a divine expression of the will of God? The only explanation for the conduct of Diotrephes was his love of the preeminence and the authority it gave him. That was the only explanation of the conduct of the popes and bishops throughout the history of the Roman Church. But it is equally impossible to understand how I could have considered my dishonest and selfish motives for choosing the priesthood as a divine expression of the will of God?  But the two are cut from the same fabric and correspond to the same fleshly desires that issue from the human heart. I was always uncomfortable concerning Diotrephes' love and appropriation of the first place contrary to the oversight originally exercised by the overseeing apostle John. I was always uncomfortable with the conduct of the medieval popes. And I was strangely uncomfortable with the idea of my own ordination even though I thought it was the best course for me to take. But I chose to go forward and to affirm apostolic succession and the structure of authority in the Catholic Church.


21. The truth was that I was a sinner in denial, pretending that in seeking ordination, I was seeking the truth and the will of God for my life. I was pretending to be content with the spiritual and moral state of my heart before God. Over long years and with much religious practice and intricate legal casuistry, I was well exercised in both pretense and in denial. I was good at rationalization and at keeping up the appearances of virtue. The whitened sepulchers among the enemies of Jesus, filled with the bones of dead men and all manner of filth and corruption, would have felt at home with me had they known my heart and my thoughts. I was dreadfully unhappy and unloving and my experiences of religious life did much to confirm both conditions. And I was intent on compounding the condition by adding ordination to my past experiences.


22. All these realities were reproved and made manifest to me in the Gospel Meetings and Sunday Morning Meetings and in the conversations with workers and friends beginning with Harry and Jay in Portland and continuing over the years. But I did not want them to know me from the inside out. And the judgment part of the crisis remained, as did the need to decide one way or the other and the fear of condemnation for not loving the truth because my deeds were evil. I knew the truth about God's love, but I did not want to think about its demands because I knew the love of God was not in me. I was afraid of condemnation and "fear hath torment," says John. "He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Liar that I was, I was nowhere near perfection. I was hanging by a thread between hope and despair. The crisis lasted twenty years because I am stubborn and on so many occasions in times of forgetfulness or addiction or hardness of heart or despair and sorrow, that thread could have been cut by God or by me or another. And there would have been no further opportunity to decide or to judge aright, but only condemnation.


23. I still wasn't convinced that Harry and Jay were the apostles sent by Jesus and that their church without a name was the very Church set up by Jesus. But they were as disturbing as were their words and the strange way they seemed not only to have the answers for theological questions over which I had pondered, but also the right questions about moral issues. But what was most disturbing was the spiritual weight of their words and that I remembered them and thought about them long after they left. They raised the questions and planted the seed of truth. The new questions they raised had to do with the validity of conclusions I had reached twenty years earlier when I had joined the Catholic Church. If I had been willing then to attend to the truth, I should have surrendered at once because a fatal flaw had appeared in the armor of my Catholic faith.


24. Harry caused a serious doubt concerning the argument that had convinced me to join the Catholic Church as a clear matter of reason and intellectual conversion. In fact those visits, maybe the first visit even, taught me all I needed to know intellectually about the truth and its correspondence with the Bible. But rational defeat does not equal the victory of love. My unwillingness to surrender to the truth on rational grounds (rational grounds diametrically opposed to the grounds which caused my conversion to the Catholic Church) would keep me Catholic until, at last, "the foolishness of preaching" proved to be wiser than human wisdom. That revelation would happen twenty years after they visited my apartment and forty years after my intellectual conversion to the Catholic Faith. But coming to the truth was not the same as my acceptance of Catholicism.


25. All through the years that followed, their visit, the words they spoke would continually come back to me at important junctures in my life and my career as a priest in the Catholic Church. I was indeed impressed by them that afternoon. I still clung to my course because, while I no longer really believed in the arguments favoring apostolic succession. I found it hard to believe that they among all the religious groups in the world were the bearers of the truth, especially when their little group was stacked up against the many generations of Catholics and their bishops. But in terms of love, the friends won every contest. But part of the motivation to continue on in my training was the sense of religious and temporal security that the system offered me as long as I stayed inside the camp. Going outside the camp is presumptuous and dangerous.


26. When Jay Wicks wrote to me in San Francisco the summer of 1982 questioning my motives for continuing the theological preparation for ordination, or rather, asking me to question my own motivations, I responded defensively and angrily. That is how those in denial invariably do. I accused him again of being judgmental and lacking patience. His humble and patient response was, "Of course I've wondered many times this past year just where you're at (so to speak), your letter was very dear and I appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness. Please excuse any offense or misunderstanding from my letters, I am pulling for you 100%... I appreciate your mentioning towards the last of your letter that I need to be patient with you; of course that's true. I am embarrassed to think I was getting pushy, but I realize that's true. Your letter helped to bring me back to reality and settle all my wonderings. Thank you for writing, my friend." The letter indeed made it clear that I was not in the right place with God and Jay knew that.


27. The reality was that my heart was hard. I clearly loved darkness rather than the light because my deeds were evil. They continued to be evil because I was "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." By remaining in the Catholic Church and continuing my course toward the priesthood, I could continue my contradictory conduct and still be secure in the system. I was certainly by nature a child of wrath. But for his own reasons, the Father was gracious to me because He loved me - wrathful though He was towards my deed. I was hateful and undeserving. He proved his love and his care by sending His servants, the apostles, to kindly teach me about His Son and about His love. My heart and my life were passing away, as this world does, through illusion and desire. But the Gospel remains forever. I am so grateful that God sent His servants and disciples who love the Way and who loved me into the Way and who spoke the truth in love and at the same time provided a reason for the hope they possessed. "How beautiful are the feet upon the mountains of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things." This passage has so much meaning for me personally.


28. In the October 1982, two months before my ordination, Harry Brownlee wrote me the following words, "There is no question in my mind or heart that you too, love Christ, and with you in heart and mind, I feel thankful for such verses as we read in John 10:16 and 27. Whatever our contact with the Lord in the past, whatever His dealing with us, I'm sure He wants to lead us all into unity such as we know to be in the body. My thoughts today have turned often to Deuteronomy 8:16, our latter end. Whatever your present experiences may be, I can't but hope they are God's way of leading you to that which will bring you into a fellowship of love such as we read of in His Word." Here just before my ordination, he was the same as he had been at the beginning when he came to my apartment in Portland.


29. He did not feel my case was hopeless even though he wrote that letter between my ordination to the order of the deaconate and my ordination as a Catholic presbyter. But I was hopeless because the "course of this world" and the "god of this world" and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" held me in darkness as long as I refused to seek "the light of the knowledge of the glory of god in the face of Jesus Christ," and as long as I was unwilling to love the truth. I had always in a form of prayer prayed for light and guidance from the Lord, but I have not always been willing to do the truth. What made me doubly culpable was that I did not love the truth I was shown and I was not willing to do the will of God. I presumed I knew enough and that I was good enough (in spite of my sins) and that I was doing enough good in the way I was walking.


30. However, in my more honest moments in that secret place of conscience where God whispers in the ear what we most need to hear, I heard him say in the darkness, "You do not love Me. You do not feed My sheep." I knew my deeds were evil and that even in my ministry, I was making provision for the flesh. I was desperate for the reality of love, for the capacity to love and for true fellowship. I was resting my heart on the things that pass away with the use thereof and my belly was my god, dressed up in fine appearances. I possessed the form of religion but I refused to give the power of godliness (and its great mystery) first place. My heart was not set on the will of God, but on my own will which led me to seek ordination and office for worldly motives, although I had tried to convince myself that I was undertaking the authority of office for the good of souls. I went on with the training and the preparations for ordination.


31. I attended quite a number of Gospel Meetings in Portland and many times Harry invited me out to eat and discuss the truth with the workers. I remember being taken to a Sunday Morning Meeting at a home in Portland by Harry and Jay. That may have been the first Sunday Morning Meeting I ever attended. On the way back to my apartment, I told Harry that the Church had repented of things like the Inquisition and inflicting capital punishment on heretics and that the fact that such things were no longer happening was proof that they were phenomenon of a less enlightened age. I said that the Catholic Church no longer did the bad things they used to do to coerce faith and the apology issued by the Pope for the past crimes of the church and its hierarchy was evidence that the evil done did not come from the spiritual heart of the church.  I was not willing to see the true source of these evils and the real reason they had stopped. Harry listened patiently and once I had finished he said, "The only reason why the church doesn't continue to do those things is because she can't and does not have the power she once exercised. If she had the power and the freedom she used to have, those things would happen again."


32. The Chapmans also visited me and continued to befriend me in spite of my continuing course. The Chapmans took me to one day at the Boring Convention at some point. Many of these visits were intended by God because things that were said came back to me twenty years later word for word at the time of the revelation in the Gospel Meeting. I was so impressed by the love they showed me. I remember saying to Milo that I thought the name "Friends" came from the medieval group of dissenters who were known as Friends of God. I also mentioned that Jesus called His disciples friends because He had revealed everything to them that His Father told them. He did not set much stock by what a group might be called and he didn't know where the name came from, but he said something very profound, or rather God said it through him, "Well, you know, a name does not make us friends; it's the love which God reveals to us and we share among us that makes us who we are, not the name.  When the love is real, we will keep His commandments." If the reality were not there, no name could make it present. Immediately I knew that my love was not real, that I did not keep His commandments and that I was not a friend of God. No amount of rationalization or excuses can make a difference. One cannot will oneself into it or work gradually into it or get it by ritual, ordination, or religious status. One can only go through the motions, put on the form and pretend, if love is not real. I always puzzled over the fact that this little group could show so much love. If they weren't truth organizationally and theologically (as the Catholic Church was), how could they be so true when it came to the love they shared and showed to others? Conversely, how could the Catholic Church be the truth when there was so little love there. I found much more love in the small group of dedicated Catholics I met the following year in Mountain Home and over the years, there have been many very loving Catholic people whom I have met. But none loved as these people do. It was disturbing. The conversation with Milo came back to me in the revelation.


33. After leaving Portland I spent a year in Mountain Home teaching the Bible and teaching people who wanted to join the Catholic Church. I was sincere in this and seemed to be doing good. That year of working in a parish was required by the Diocese before ordination because I had been living outside of Idaho for many years. During that year, many times, I had contact with the Friends. Harry and Jay and some of the other workers stopped to visit me in Mountain Home and sat in on one of my convert classes in the house where I was living and conducting the classes.


34. Harry had asked the Gregories in Boise to check up on me and they were very kind. I also attended at least one Sunday Morning Meeting in the home of Maurice and Melva Gregory. They showed me true love and tried very hard to lead me to the truth and away from the course toward ordination. They were very hospitable. They even let me stay at their house one time when I was sent to Boise on work for the Catholic Church and the priest at the parish where I was supposed to be lodged did not provide for me. The morning after my stay at their house, I had a discussion with Melva which I never forgot because God spoke to me in that conversation and I clearly said, "No," even as Melva was speaking the very words of God to me. That conversation came back to me the day I received the revelation of the truth in Twin Falls after twenty years had passed.


35. In Mountain Home that year, I also met the Walkers who lived in my home town and whom my Father knew, but whom I had not met. Their daughter was the valedictorian in my brother's class who had asked the workers to come and Howard Mooney to preach at the baccalaureate ceremony. I visited Mildred Walker that year. I went away asking myself why these people always have such an effect on me and bring me right to the heart of the matter even when we are not even talking about religious things. When Convention time came around that year, they invited me to go to Parma.  I made some excuse as to why I couldn't go until after Mass on Sunday morning. I did not realize until later that Alvin drove from Parma that Sunday morning to pick me up in Mountain Home, drove me back to Parma where I attended one meeting and then he drove me back to Mountain Home and then returned to Parma - all that driving and all that time, out of love for me and the hope that I might hear something from the meeting that would help me find salvation. On that day at the Parma Convention, I also had a conversation with Melva Gregory about the workers.


36. The summer of 1982, I went to California to Berkely to do a summer school at the University of San Francisco. I came home long enough to be ordained a Deacon in Mountain Home on September 14. Then in the fall of that year, I went back to California, again to Berkeley to finish my theology studying at the Dominican School of Theology for the fall semester. I lived at the Dominican Priory. But who was it that picked me up at the airport when I arrived in California? It was the Chapmans who met me and took me to the Dominican Priory. No Catholic family arranged to meet me. The Gregories, the Chapmans, and the Walkers attended my ordination in Mountain Home on December 27, 1982. After my ordination, I was sent to Idaho Falls. The workers visited me there and I went to Gospel Meetings there and met some of the friends there. Also, the Gregories visited me there.


37. I attended many Gospel Meetings over the years, but did not really understand enough about revelation to see that something was supposed to take place in my heart when the workers spoke. I did not understand what they meant when they said that God would show me the truth and I did not connect that with the idea of revelation. Revelation was what Peter had been given and it was the unique possession of the Church, not something I could realistically expect to experience personally as he did. My part was to give an intellectual assent to the revealed truth, taught by the Church, that Jesus was Lord and that the Father had raised Him from the dead. Every Sunday in the Church's liturgy the philosophical formulation and Trinitarian elaboration of this revealed truth was confessed as the Creed was recited.


38. So according to this faith, which consisted of an intellectual assent to the truth taught and dogmatically defined by the Church, I had believed in my heart that Jesus was truly raised from the dead and I had confessed with my lips the truth that Jesus is Lord. So when I went to Gospel Meetings in the beginning and all through the 20 years and right up until the Gospel Meeting in which Stan spoke, I presumed that I possessed the revealed truth through the Church and that I was saved because I had given the intellectual assent of faith to that truth. But I had no idea about the reality of revelation, faith, and salvation. What I heard at the Gospel Meetings was basically true and I respected the sincerity of the workers, but, though I presumed to be a master in Israel, I did not know about the foolishness of preaching or what could happen. I presumed that "I had been there," already "done that" as the expression goes, and didn't know what more was to be expected.  Much later when Jean Larsen asked me if the Catholic Church taught that you could not be saved without a revelation, even then I did not quite get the connection between hearing, revelation, and salvation.


39. When I was a priest at Soda Springs, the Gregories visited me. I ran into Harry in a department store in Salt Lake and visited him and other workers at a bach in Logan. Harry Brownlee visited me along with Milo and Sarah Chapman. They were always hopeful and I was always wondering, in a rather condescending manner, why they could not understand that the Catholic Church was the true church. In reality, it was I who failed to understand either the Catholic Church or the Way to which they were bearing testimony. So I knew it all and I knew nothing about faith, salvation, the mystery of God's will, the fellowship of the mystery of Christ, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God but revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. I knew nothing about being rooted and grounded in the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. I knew nothing because I thought I knew it all. The "all" was a vain philosophical understanding of theology, the desires of the mind and the lusts of the flesh.  As Paul says, "I was caught up in the course of this world, without God, having no hope and dominated by the law of sin and death dwelling in my flesh." Under the form of religion, I was irreligious, proud, cynical, and full of contradictions. On the surface and in the world of appearances, things were going well professionally and success was in view. It is very hard to move out of a "world" where each day and night potentially each hour was filled with well choreographed and often beautiful ritual events unfolding in sanctuaries of stone to a world of the spirit, which from a distance seemed like a desert. My life was filled with scheduled duties and programs to be accomplished for definite and venerable purposes, each day and week, each season, each year, revolving around the institutions of the Church and moving on toward what I thought then should be the ultimate goal.  But spiritually, it was desert.


40. Many times over the 20 years after I met Harry Brownlee, the Chapmans, and the Gregories, the truth and the way came to mind and remained not far from my thoughts ever, but finding the power to say, "Yes," seemed so far beyond my reach and so alien to all that I knew religiously that I continued on my own course. Also there seemed to be obstacles that could not be overcome - at least until I was willing to let God deal with them and dispose of them. The witness of the workers and the various friends was like a life-line thrown to a person about to sink below the waves. So often, either the workers or the friends would call or visit at just the right time, as though they knew what was going through my mind and the events of my life. In the letter Jay wrote me before my ordination, it was clear that he too knew what was in my heart. Jay had a pretty good understanding of my pride and unwillingness, but that didn't cause him to despair or give up on me. Doyle Smith came all the way from Twin Falls to visit once in Aberdeen at the parish house there. He listened to me talk about all I was doing and knew I was beating around the bush and pretending.  It wasn't so much what was said by the workers that impressed me, but the fact that they came to see me. In July of 1998, I was transferred to Twin Falls, the second largest parish in the Diocese.


41. During the months leading up to Jay's visit in January of 2001, I had no idea what the Father had in mind and what arrangements He was making to set me free and bring me out from bondage. The last visit I had had with Jay was at the time of my ordination almost 20 years earlier in 1982. But looking back, it is so clear how God prepares and uses His servants to fish for men and women; how He can bring His servants half way around the world and place them in exactly the right place at the right time, full of faith and all prepared to cast the net another, and another, and another time, in hope. They go on because they have come to believe that the Father knows and the Father loves and that He is the "heart-knowing and heart-purifying God" (Acts 15:8-9 literally translated) who loves everyone whom He has created and wants none to be lost. My heart was not pure, but He knew my heart even though it was unworthy. Jay went to Africa around 1988 and after spending 13 of those years in Africa, Jay Wicks came to Twin Falls as one of the speakers on the special meeting circuit on January 12, 2001. Milo told him to look me up in Twin Falls. He called the parish and I made it to part of the evening Special Meeting. After the special meeting we went out to eat and he said words that would eventually open my hard heart enough for me to take another look at the truth.


42. At the restaurant after the meeting, Jay began by asking, "After all this time are you not ready to take another look at the truth? Aren't you ready yet to do what God wants instead of what you want?" I said, "No." My response was that would never leave the Catholic Church. I added, "The Way is too small and too narrow for me and for most of humanity to find a place." I said that His net, the net of the workers, was too small and narrow to use to fish for the multitudes of men. Compared with His net, my net, the net of the Catholic Church, was huge. I told him that 4,000 people came each week to hear me preach and pass through the doors of the church. And that, whereas the workers had few coming to hear them as possible converts (I did not yet know that I would shortly be one of them), I was making 40 or 50 converts a year and how did he expect to accomplish such feats with no institution and no organized backing and only God to rely on? I couldn't see the irony of that statement at the time.


43. I also asked, "What good were so few workers among the millions in Africa and the countless millions of people in the world?" His answer was that the workers don't look at their own numbers (like the few loaves and fishes, what are they among so many? - one of the questions I put to Jay) nor do they look to their own strength or wisdom or natural gifts. Jay said, "We just try to be willing and we try to be prepared by prayer and in the right spirit and armed with God's word and a lively faith and then, we go out. We hope to be in the right place, one of the Lord's choosing, at the right time, to catch that one man or woman out of the multitudes whose heart has been prepared and made ready for the passing of the net." So, like all the workers, he just wanted to be available to God to do God's will and to speak the words God wanted to be said.


44. The workers weren't overwhelmed with converts in Africa, he admitted, but then he asked me just how many of my many converts stayed in the net and found happiness in the Church. "How many of those 40 or 50 people that you convert each year," he asked, "stay with what you give them and find peace for the rest of their lives?" Knowing that many did not stay in the Church and that we very often just let them go or even abandoned them, depending on the work that they required, I said, dishonestly, "We try out best with the ones we encounter. Not all of them persevere; sometimes most of them fall away, but we just do the best we can with the few that are willing to persevere." When he looked at me in that quizzical way of his which implied, "So what good is your big net after all your bragging?" I remembered that of all the people over the years whom I had "converted," I could probably count on the fingers of my two hands the ones who really stuck it out. So I said again, "We just do the best we can." And again, as I said the words, I knew I was lying also because I was not doing my best and had not done my best for a long time. (My Mother used to say that it didn't matter what you accomplished, what was important was that you do your best. I always wished she had not added the last part because I never did the best I could).


45. But all Jay said was, "That's what we are doing." I knew he was doing more in Africa, with all the obstacles he faced, than I was doing in my parish, even with all its "opportunities to reach the multitudes." What impressed me was that he was totally dependent on God and that he sought to do God's will always in the ministry. I was touched by his obviously genuine pastoral zeal and wished that I had the same kind of zeal to do God's will and to go out as he did in Africa to save the lost and to be prepared to speak the truth to anyone God brought across their path. The same could not be said for me. Again, I remembered how patient he was when I scolded him for implying in the letter he wrote to me when I was in the seminary at Berkeley, that I was a lost sheep. He had said that he had heard the bleat of the lost sheep only once from me. But by the time of his visit, I had spoken many judgments on my own conduct and where it would lead me, in spite of my holy vocation and my priestly role, if I did not find a change of heart and a way to do God's will, whatever it might be. But the will of God for me couldn't be what he was in. I didn't fault his sincerity, just the narrow sectarian way he was in. But I was so touched by his sincerity that I determined that I would try again and renew my commitment to my vocation in the true Church. I would try to do all my duties as sincerely as Jay did his. My goal was to imitate more closely the true simplicity, faith, and devotion the workers manifested. I would leave him and all the friends of God to the little group they were in, but I would take heart from his zeal and try to employ the same zeal in my work. How sincerely desirous the workers were of doing God's will and seeking out the lost sheep. I would do the same.


46. Well, it can't work that way and it did not work that way. One cannot try to take the love and its power out of the way and leave the rest behind. One has to walk in the Way of Christ before one can experience the power of His love. As hard as I tried to imitate the dedication of the workers, I was still unable to put my full strength and my full commitment into my work. As far as my personal failures were concerned, I could not on my own strength and willingness resolve the dark contradictions that continued to lead me down the secret path toward personal despair and hell itself, priesthood and all. I knew I deserved God's wrath, but even that knowledge was not enough to break the power of addiction and pride throughout twenty years of experience. Inwardly, in my spirit, there was that quiet desperation and helplessness of being out of control and the hopelessness that comes from clinging to the bad habits of the past. I think time had to pass and despair had to grow my willingness to look for alternatives, real spiritual alternatives, not just intellectual variations, but a totally new horizon.


47. Perhaps that is what Harry Brownlee meant when he said that he was confidant that God had a purpose for all my time and experience in the Catholic Church and the priesthood I was just then about to undertake, "Whatever your present experiences may be, I can't but hope they are God's way of leading you to that which will bring you into a fellowship of love such as we read of in His Word." I did not realize it, but God was bringing me to that place of willingness for whatever He would show me and He was shaping the words of a prayer in the depths of my heart. The fruit of that prayer was in the end the promise to do whatever He would ask me to do, if He would just show me the way.


48. Meanwhile, I carried on hoping to put together a pastoral plan that would guide the community into the new millennium and build a greater church than the one built a hundred years earlier. But the lack of love and the lack of truth in a church built on power, pride of place, and the gathering of a greater and greater financial harvest to cover larger and larger budgets, continued to be disheartening. Building larger and larger buildings to house bigger and more impersonal gatherings, on the model of the churches in the California dioceses from whence our bishops were being chosen, was not my idea of building Christian community. And there was great division, and decidedly unchristian attitudes, in the parish community due to the prospect building a new church and the eventual abandonment of the old and venerable sanctuary. This was the case even though there were serious doubts about the old building's safety, especially in the eventuality of an earthquake. The earthquake that came was not a physical one, affecting the building of brick and mortar, but rather a spiritual one that would change completely the religious landscape of my life.


49. Before we parted at the restaurant that night, Jay said the workers needed a place to hold their gospel meetings since they couldn't, for some reason midway through the year, continue to meet in their usual hall. So I was glad for some reason to be able to do something for him and for the workers who were working in Twin Falls. And I could show my tolerance and ecumenical spirit by offering them the use of Guadalupe's chapel on Sunday afternoons. One thing Jay insisted on was that the workers would not be comfortable unless I was there for at least some of the meetings and I thought that meant that I needed to welcome them and show them where things were. I did not realize that they would be holding gospel meetings at Guadalupe, at least in part, for my sake and to try one last time to get me converted to their way. I am told that I went to most of the meetings, but I really only remember the one in which God revealed the truth to me, and I came into that one half way through.


50. It was the Sunday before Easter (called Passion Sunday in the Catholic calendar) and I thought it was the last meeting they would have. I was very busy and totally strung out and on the run from one service to another. After the Spanish Mass, I hurried over to the other chapel where the Gospel Meetings were being held. I had already missed Kevin Wilson's talk but I was attending purely out of courtesy because I felt the workers would feel more comfortable if I were hospitable. Actually Jay says he said they would not hold the meetings unless I were there, but I didn't get that part when we talked at the restaurant after the special meeting about the workers using the Chapel. I was just there to be hospitable and since I came in late, I sat in the back so as not to disturb things. Later, Nita Morgue said they all wanted to turn around and look at me. Its probably good they didn't. I might have thought it was a set up (God did set it up), but I was pretty slow on the uptake.


51. Stan did not think he was the best one to speak to this priest and he struggled to do his part. But he was precisely the one I needed to hear from that day.


52. When Stan began to talk he quoted the passage in Ephesians in which Paul says, speaking of his mission, "How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery of Christ, as it is revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, the manifold wisdom of God, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Chapter 3). As Stan read the words, "the fellowship of the mystery," the room, the people, the world around me fell away and I "saw" the mystery. God revealed to me the truth. Scriptures and the reality of the truth behind them. I saw John 1:18, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." By seeing, I mean that I saw Jesus in the bosom of the Father and the mystery of love and glory that passed between them from all eternity. I saw that love pouring into the world, creation and poured into the hearts of believers. I saw Jesus revealing the Father and the light reflected from His face. In that light, events from my past came visually before me in the same manner, I think, as a person's life is said to pass before them at the moment they think they are about to die. Many events going back even to my early childhood events, times, conversations, words and scriptures, from my past came back.


53. For example, a conversation I had with Melva Gregory in the back yard of her house. I saw the leaves of the trees behind her dancing in the wind as she was talking to me about the truth. The words of Jesus to Nicodemus came back to me, "The wind blows where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." I knew then that she was speaking directly to me about the decision I should be making, but I was unwilling to say yes to the voice of God and the testimony of the Spirit (John 15:26-27).


54. The conversation with Milo about the love which makes us who we are. I "saw" John 17 - Jesus praying that the Father would glorify Jesus with the glory they shared before the world began and Jesus giving us the glory the Father gave Him. And I knew that glory was love. The commandment to love as Christ first loved us and proved that love in the crucifixion. The reality of the truth and of the love in the family of believers; the real presence of Jesus in the breaking of the bread - the recognition of the Body of Christ and the unity of loving the brethren and the real meaning of what we are to do in His memory.


55. For me, the revelation was "seeing" the mystery of the fellowship of love and the truth of the Way and the ministry of Jesus and that Stan was doing what Jesus sent the apostles out to do and that work was still going forward today. And the falsehood of what I had been and had been doing. And much more. But all of it can't be said.


56. After the meeting, I knew what I had to do.

** Ernie was a Catholic Priest