Thomas Howard converted to Catholicism several years after I became a Catholic but even so he was extremely influential in helping me make sense of my conversion and in speaking to Evangelical friends about it.
There simply weren’t many former Evangelicals who had become Catholics when I was looking into Catholicism now over forty years ago. John Michael Talbot was about it. Tom Howard I knew of when I was an Evangelical. I knew him as the author of Christ the Tiger and Chance or the Dance? He was something of a “big deal” to many of us. Especially those of us Evangelicals theologically and imaginatively influenced by C.S. Lewis.
Tom Howard published Evangelical Is Not Enough in 1984, I think. I remember wondering if he would, as I saw it, go all the way. You see, the book really isn’t an apologetic for the Catholic Church so much as an apologetic for liturgical worship—Howard had become an Anglican/Episcopalian. Which of course for some Evangelicals is tantamount to converting to Catholicism. (It was even more so in the early 1980s than today.)
Later, when Ignatius Press published the book, a chapter on Tom’s conversion to Rome was added. Nevertheless, in 1984, Tom hadn’t at that point gone “all the way”. I talked with some of my Evangelical friends, who thought he wouldn’t “pope” but I think, if I recall correctly now, most of them believed he would. “That liturgical stuff inevitably leads to one destination,” as a Missouri Baptist College friend of mine put it.
(A good Episcopalian friend and a Lutheran friend declared that nonsense. A Methodist friend, studying for the ministry, found the book helpful. But these were exceptions, at least among my friends.)
A year later, in 1985, Howard “poped”. And there’s been a flood of converts from Evangelicalism ever since.
As I say he helped me make sense of my own conversion some years before. He was able to articulate, in fine prose, some of what I had come to experience and understood rather inchoately. It was great. I could just give copies of his book to inquirers. And I did.
I don’t say that triumphalistically. But, without wanting to offend Evangelicals, it seems to me a work of the Spirit. Thomas Howard was also a work of the Spirit.
He was a Catholic convert but also a pontifex in his own right—bringing together Catholics and Evangelicals. Even after his Catholic conversion many Evangelicals continued to read him. This, too, was the work of the Spirit.
It is one of the great privileges of my life to have come to know him, even a bit, and of course years later to have been involved in publishing his books.
May he rest in peace.
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