Episode 15 – The Conversion of Annie Witz (OPC)

Nov 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Podcast

In this episode, Tom Riello, former PCA minister, interviews Annie Witz, a convert from the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).  Annie’s father is an elder in the OPC church and serves on the board of Westminster Seminary California.   Annie shares her personal conversion story from being a devout OPC member to a Catholic in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church).  Of particular interest is the role that the women saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in her conversion.  We are thrilled to have our first female guest on the show!

 

To download the mp3, click here.

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  1. I’m listening to the Annie Witz podcast now and I would like to gently register a protest. Her experience is certainly hers to claim, but there is by no means “no place for women” in the Reformed Church. I, too, have often remarked on the marvelous traditions in the Catholic Church revolving around Mary and the women saints, and the masculine orientation of Reformed Church history. However, the faith and experience and history of women is celebrated and honored in many Reformed and Protestant traditions today. I am sorry that her experience was of such a negative and narrow aspect of our tradition, especially where the lives of women are concerned and glad for her that she has found an expression of faith that is deeper and more meaningful to her, but her knowledge of her childhood heritage is limited at best.

  2. Wonderful witness. Thank you Annie. Thank you Tom. Thanks be to God.

  3. Robin, Are you reformed? I did know my reformed faith quite well. What place do women have in the reformed tradition? Who are these women they hold up? Yes there are biblical women but it is nothing like honoring the Mother of God. Yes I could have spent more time on what bothered me about the reformed tradition but that was not the intent of the story. I became Catholic because of one simple truth. Sola Sciptura is not Biblical! Christ set up a Church and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be in line with He set up up rather than just leave because I didn’t like the way they did things.

  4. I loved this! I think Annie is such an example of a seeker who refuses to let a stubborn heart bent on a doctrine keep her from finding real truth. Amazing!

  5. Annie, I am PC(USA), which I believe is the other end of the spectrum from the OPC. I have a tremendous appreciation for the Catholic Church, although that is not where God has called me. And as you said, this post is about your journey, not a debate about our respective traditions. I merely felt compelled to straighten out the record a bit, as the church you describe would be unrecognizable to the many Presbyterian women pastors, elders, teachers, professors, other leaders, and congregants who find God’s beauty and truth in our beliefs and practices. I wish you well in your continued life with God.

  6. Annie, it was a blessing for me to hear your witness. Thank you for sharing.

    I took your point about the role of women in the OPC to be not unlike what I have heard from other Protestant women that struggle with the Proverbs 31 lady:

    The Most-Hated Woman in the Bible

    I have a hunch that the most-hated woman in the Bible is not bad-girl Jezebel. It’s the “woman of noble character” in Proverbs 31. One friend whined to me, “I can’t stand that Proverbs 31 lady. I feel tired just thinking about her.” …

    The Excellent Wife

    … I read about the Proverbs 31 lady, and I always walk away feeling sorely inadequate. I read about all that she does and think ‘I need to do more…I need to do this..or that.’ And then I slump down and say…”I can’t do any of that.” So I just push my thoughts of her to the way back corners of my mind. …

  7. Robin: “I have a tremendous appreciation for the Catholic Church, although that is not where God has called me.”

    Hi, Robin. The question your comment brings to mind for me is this: If the Catholic Church is indeed Christ’s historic Church, why would you assume that God has called you elsewhere? Or stated differently: If the PCA is merely one man-made Protestant sect among thousands which have branched off from the Catholic Church since the 16th century, why would you assume that God has called you there? (As opposed, that is, to Christ’s historic Catholic Church.)

    (I myself am a convert to Catholicism from the OPC.)

    Gaudium de veritate,

    Don

  8. Donald – just a clarification, the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) is distinct from the PC USA. Both PCA & OPC are much smaller and more conservative branches of Presbyterianism.

  9. Tim ~ Of course, you’re right. Thanks for the heads-up.

  10. [...] J. Beckwith GA_googleAddAttr("author", "FrancisJBeckwith"); ShareYou can listen to her story here at Called to Communion.  She is interviewed by Tom Riello. Annie is a Catholic convert from the Orthodox Presbyterian [...]

  11. Just for the record. I do not want women clergy. Even if I did want them it is not my call but God’s. I also do not want male nuns, sisters, or pregnant men. Equality doesn’t mean we all have the same jobs.

    I would echo the same call that Christ set up one Church and He has and does call everyone no matter what they do or have done in life to Himself and HIs Church.

  12. Hi Donald,

    We have different understandings of “the church.” I know that’s not satisfactory to you — but we do differ there. And I don’t “assume” what God’s call is — I study and listen and pray.

    Robin

  13. Annie,

    Incredible story. I love your honesty and willingness to risk everything in order to follow God’s call to the Catholic Church. It’s great to see that your love and passion for Christ and the Church has only grown since you conversion in 1994. Thanks!

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  14. Thanks for the posting. I am an evangelical who has considered crossing the Tiber (past tense) but am always interested in the stories of those who decided otherwise. I did listen to Ms. Witz’s story. I related to her concerns but her “vibes” were edgy and really don’t help the cause. In particular, Dr. Godfrey was my prof in seminary. I found him to be one of the most gracious and honest of communicators. I saw him in the trenches of the Westminster wars over justification by faith. Never did he wander from the way of a gentleman nor did he equivocate. While his answers might not have satisfied Ms. Witz (and some of them are not persuasive to me either), I think she read a bit too much of a sinister spirit into Dr. Godfrey and an indifferentism to Roman Catholic concerns that I never experienced. If she is to make her testimony more useful to her new communion, she needs to reexamine tone and innuendo. Her story stands on its own, and there is much that I agree with. Just some feedback.

  15. Hi Annie! I enjoyed listening to your story on the podcast. I’m a convert (2006) from the reformed tradition, too, and can relate to what you say. I must say that going from reformed Baptist to Catholicism was like leaving a famine and joining a great feast.

  16. Beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing. My own father is an independent Baptist pastor, and telling him is something very frightening to me. My mother knows that we’ve been attending Mass, but I don’t know if she realizes we’re in RCIA. I really appreciate Annie’s transparency. If you’re reading, Annie, how do your parents treat you now, years after the conversion? My folks are 70 (I’m in my early 30s), so it’s not as if we have a lot of years to wait for them to get used to it.

  17. Annie, Thanks for your story! I understand what you’re saying when you say “I’d never read John 6.” Surely you’d read it. You’d read the words through your particular OPC lens, which had prevented you from recognizing what Christ was actually teaching. I remember when I first read John 6 with a mind and heart open to the words of Christ as they were actually recorded, I thought “How could this not have registered? How could I have never seen this before?” Thanks again for sharing your story. Peace to you. herbert vanderlugt

  18. Lawwife, My folks do love me and now for the most part not much is said. I do not think they are really interested in why. I do think they are very sad of course. They have not come to my childrens baptism and Chrismations which has always made me very sad. Never the less I do try to be a good adult child to them. This past summer my Mother almost died several times. I was helping her one day in ICU with a makeshift hairwash. Anyways I realized in a powerful new way that the Catholic and Orthodox way of looking at the dignity of man no matter what the situation is radical. We see the good in the physical and that is why we have our prolife at all costs theology.No matter what happened with my Mom, I felt the Holy Mother of God with me and the power of her Son. She is on the mend but what happened taught me alot of how I should treat them, Catholic or Calvinist. Ask the guys to send you my email if you would like to chat more. I am always happy to help someone on the journey. I will pray for you to have the strength to do it.

    Don, I do think Dr Godfrey is a good man. One of the better ones out there. I do not think he is a dishonest man. I do however think his passion for being reformed and protestant blinds him. I am sorry if that did not come across.

    Nancy, Welcome! Were you in the actual denomination? I used to know some from California. I agree on the feast! Amen!

    Herbert were you OPC? I felt like I had never read John 6 at all. Like it was hidden or something. I know so many who have come over who ll say the same thing!

  19. I felt like I had never read John 6 at all. Like it was hidden or something. I know so many who have come over who ll say the same thing!

    :-)

    Verses I Never Saw by Marcus Grodi

    One of the more commonly shared experiences of Protestant converts to the Catholic Church is the discovery of verses “we never saw.” Even after years of studying, preaching, and teaching the Bible, sometimes from cover to cover, all of a sudden a verse “we never saw” appears as if by magic and becomes an “Aha!” mind-opening, life-altering messenger of spiritual “doom”! Sometimes it’s just recognizing an alternate, clearer meaning of a familiar verse, but often, as with some of the verses mentioned below, it literally seems as if some Catholic had snuck in during the night and somehow put that verse there in the text!

    The list of these surprise verses is endless, depending especially on a convert’s former religious tradition, but the following are a few key verses that turned my heart toward home. …

  20. Annie- I was a Baptist who simply didn’t know what I didn’t know about the Catholic Church. Once I heard, i was quite open. Walter de la Mare summed it up when he said something like this:

    ‘…the Christian and Catholic idea of Man and the Universe is the richest, profoundest, most imaginative and creative, beautiful and reasonable conception of any I have knowledge of… Therefore…it is…the most likely to be true.’

    And about John 6- I, too, FELT like I’d never read it, though I had. It was like it was cloaked or something. It was as though it was concealed until some future point in time when I’d be ready to accept it. Weird, huh? When i 1st sat down with a Catholic deacon to express my interest in RCIA Christ’s words in John 6 are the first things he mentioned. Makes sense. After all He is the Source and Summit of the Faith. Thank you again for your encouraging story. Peace of Christ to you!

  21. I listened to Annie’s story through an Itunes download. I was very impressed with her story and how she was able to communicate her authentic feelings about her journey.

    As a cradle Catholic, two things caught my attention in particular. First, the courage and commitment Annie had to have to depart from her family’s faith tradition. I am pretty certain that I could never have done any such thing if it involved disappointing my father. I am obviously made from flimsier material than Annie, and it’s a good thing I’ve never had to do it.

    Second, the tactic of rolling out ex-catholics as a kind of testimonial about Catholicism. Annie’s frustration with the ignorance of lapsed cradle Catholics came through loud and clear, and it resonated with me. When I find lapsed Catholics in other denominations, what strikes me is how ignorant they are of the faith that they rejected. I’ve been involved at times with Protestant groups, and when I have explained what Catholicism teaches, I get told by lapsed Catholics that they never heard any such thing. On the other hand, my experience with Protestant converts to Catholicism is that they are usually incredibly knowledgeable about their own prior tradition before they ever became Catholics. It’s a sad commentary on the status of catechesis after Vatican II.

  22. [...] seminary. She explains her conversion to the Church and the role of Mary in this conversion. Episode 15 – The Conversion of Annie Witz (OPC) | Called to Communion __________________ The first step in knowing who you are is knowing who you are not. ~ Dom [...]

  23. Dear Annie,

    Thank you for giving your time to allow CtC to record this conversation about your conversion and personal experiences as you went through it. Be strong in the faith!

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  24. Annie,

    Just being honest, and not to denigrate in any way the sincerity or correctness of your conversion…

    The Catholic Church does indeed hold that wives should be submissive to their husbands (“in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety”- Roman Catechism). This is simply biblical and the traditional teaching over the centuries. This is not oppession or inequality, but rather God’s plan and the natural order of things.

    Moreover, while there is the crucial issue of vocation for both men and women, in my understanding this does not manifest in a woman’s choice of whether to devote herself to “a career” on the one hand or motherhood on the other (if I remember correctly, at one point you remark that if someone wants exclusively to be a mother then you “don’t have a problem with that.”) Rather, while certainly not forbidding a career per se, the Church sees the vocation of motherhood as normative for women who are called to marry.

    I am a little disturbed by the move to the Catholic Church being presented in your testimony as a kind of “liberation” from a biblical and traditional (perhaps “patriarchal” is the word?) conception of the family.

    Of course none of this has anything to do with your absolutely correct conviction about women having “a place” in the Catholic Church and, from Mary onward, providing inspirational examples of female martyrs, saints, mystics, authors, and doctors of the church.

  25. I do not take the Calvinist idea of a woman to be the Catholic idea of a woman. It seems to me that the submission issue in Calvinism is something different in Catholicism. The man must die to Christ and love his wife. Yes he is the spiritual head of the home but he isn’t a dictator. The Church has some definite views on how a man must treat his wife and using that verse which so many men do, is a bit sick. I grow tired of all the men bringing up that verse while ignoring the commandment to love.

    My idea of liberation is not some silly modern NOW slogan but one of real liberation from a tyrannical Calvinist God. Men and women are free in Christ. In becoming a Catholic I felt a burden lifted from my shoulders. I felt free to finally think. (OK I borrowed that from Chesterton.) For the first time I felt God’s love and the love of his saints.

    I am a mother who stays at home. I am happy with my husband. I have three daughters who I adore. I think my point was more of a working issue or becoming a sister and not marrying at all. I don’t think all women are good for is cranking out babies. We have minds and hearts and we have a lot to offer. That is why God made women and men. The vocation is marriage and motherhood is part of that if the Lord blesses you with children.

    The Church has always had women who worked. The modern notion of stay at home mothers is not how life played out. While he was in the farm she made the butter, tended the animals and did everything else. The Church does not say one way or the other if a woman can work outside the home. If you disagree than you only have to look to St Gianna who was a doctor and a mother.

  26. Dear Annie,

    I can see how Calvinisit theology could play out in relationships and affect the whole family ethos. I truly didn’t mean to criticize you personally with my comment. It was more of a “for the record” kind of thing.

    It is always a bit of a risk when you talk about personal things in a public forum and I want to compliment you for that and for doing a great job in witnessing to the truth.

    Blessings,

    Michael

  27. Hey Annie from the former Continuing Anglican former Calvinist friend. I recall the conversation containing a bit abut the perpetual virginity of Mary too. ;)

  28. Thanks Perry. Glad I left the Calvinism!

  29. converting to Catholic from Lutheran church (LCMS) so always interested conversion stories….

  30. Tito – welcome home to the Catholic Church and welcome to Called to Communion.

  31. Tito welcome home! You will be so glad ! Swimming the Tiber is scary but what a gift! Christ and His Mother I am sure will shower you with Love while you prepare to take Him in the Holy Mystery of Communion!

    The LCMS was my transitional Church. I liked the old hymnal.

    Peace!

  32. Tito, congratulations, my brother in Christ, and welcome Home to the Church that Christ founded!

  33. Dear Annie,

    Thank you for sharing your personal story! It would be so great to also learn how you ended up entering the Church in an Eastern rite. If I get it right from the record you seemed to have more contact with people from the Latin rite and was getting cathecism from a Latin rite priest. So what attracted you to the Eastern mode of worship? The Akathistos perhaps?

    God bless,

    Zsolt

  34. Sorry it took so long to answer. I am recovering from the flu. (I should have had the shot!)

    I became Catholic in the Latin Rite. I was until I married my husband who is Byzantine Catholic by choice. I always really respected the Eastern Churches but did not go on a regular basis. When Michael and I married we did so in a Byzantine parish. I loved the wedding liturgy so much. I started to read about the practice and went to Holy Resurection Manastery out here in California. From then on the practice and Liturgy really worked well for me. I love the Marian devotion in the East with the main focus being Mary the Mother of God. It is very incarnational. Not saying anything bad about the West. For me it brings me closer to God. The Akathisthist is the most beautiful Marian devotion in my opinion. One more thing on the East. I do think the practice of Confirming and giving Holy Communion at Baptism for Babies is better. That I will say.

    That being said I do love and respect Latin tradition and of course attend Mass in Latin Churches. I have great hope for the Anglican Use Churches and all the Anglicans that will soon become Catholic. I think that The fact we have different rites, devotions, cultures, and Liturgies shows how universal we are. That means so much to me as a former Calvinist.

    Peace,
    Annie

  35. I also come from solid Calvinistic background, and have been surprised to see that much of my Calvinistic way of thinking is retained and even refined within the theology of Thomas Aquinas. I couldn’t help but wonder how Catholics understand Aquinas’s views on things like predestination (which seems to be virtually the same as “unconditional election”), and it also made me wonder if the reasons why she doesn’t like the Calvinist God have to do with certain theological convictions (such as unconditional election) that would be held in common between Calvin and St. Thomas in significant ways. Any thoughts?

  36. Bradley,

    I recommend an article by Jimmy Akin that might be helpful: A Tiptoe Through the Tulip.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  37. Bradley,

    To Brent’s suggestion, I might add that that we have discussed this subject to some degree in at least three posts (and in the comboxes of those posts): “Calvinian Thomism: Providence, Conservation, and Concurrence in the Thought of John Calvin,” “Predestination: John Calvin vs. Thomas Aquinas,” and “Signs of Predestination — A Catholic Discusses Election.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. With regards to Mrs Witz VERY unfortunate miscarriages. I just cant imagine not being able to call out to GOD/Christ during a time of tribulation. Isnt it GOD’s will that is ultimately played out….is HE not calling us to experience sanctification through trials. I CANNOT imagine feeling uncomfortable in weeping to HIM during such times. Have all the respect for Catholicism, but just cant wrap my head around that one.

  39. A loss of a baby is devastating. Not only are you in grief your hormones are a mess. God allows me to call out to Him through His Mother. A Mother who saw her Son suffer and die on the cross helped me get through a very sad time in my life. As a Catholic if I cry out to Mary, St Catherine of Alexandria, and/or Bl Junipero Serra I am crying out to Him. It isn’t either/or.

    I would have said what you said before I converted to Catholicism and before I lost my babies.

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