An Interview with Ken Howell, former Assemblies of God pastor

I’ve told of our conversion many times, and Catholic Sistas has published the story. This is the first time my husband has answered questions posed by some of our Ink Slingers on his journey from Pentecostal preacher to Catholic convert. Some of his conversation surprised me (I guess I do talk more than he does!); some of his words were forceful and some were poetic. I have posed their questions and written his answers as he talked. And talked. And talked.

What caused you to start looking at the Catholic Church?

I began looking at how a church should make decisions and examining church government throughout various sects and denominations of Protestantism. I found that the Catholic Church followed what I saw in Acts. That is, questions regarding faith or morals (as in Acts 15, whether all converts had to be circumcised) were settled by Christian leaders retreating to think and pray together, then to explain to the faithful what they and the Holy Spirit had decided. It was in perfect accordance with what Jesus told the Twelve in John 16:13–the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.

One problem with independent, self-governed congregations is that they tend to operate on a democratic model, which is little more than mob rule. It happens all the time – people demanding a change of mission or a “vote of confidence” to recall the pastor, a nice phrase meaning to kick him out (and his wife and children). This is one of the hallmarks of Protestantism, each one deciding what the Bible means and how Christianity should be lived. And if some people don’t agree with the interpretation at that time, then they “protest” by divorcing themselves from that “assembly” and then starting their own. Thus the cycle sadly continues.

While there are numerous forms of church government, it is the hierarchy of Catholicism that is absolutely Scriptural, as well as historically Jewish, since Christianity is a child of Judaism.

What was the determining factor in your conversion?

Short answer? The Catechism.

We started going through Catholic teachings one by one from the Catholic Answers tract page. We learned about the Eucharist, the communion of saints, the headship of the pope, the necessity of purgatory, and a sacramental worldview. The scales fell from our eyes as we read our Bibles again and saw things anew. We read of John Henry Newman’s studies on the development of Christian doctrine and how he traced back, century by century, doctrines that would make any Protestant blanch. Catholic teaching goes all the way to the New Testament and even to the Old Testament, since it prefigures the New. Of the thousands of Protestant denominations, not one traces itself in an unbroken line to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. They are all breakaways of a breakaway of a breakaway, all from the Catholic Church. Newman coined a poignant sentence: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

So there arose within me a self-proposing and answerable question: Who would I rather align myself with – roll the dice and pick a group I like, hoping they got it correctly or (as uncomfortable as it might be) go with the church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic? This was the turning point. This was when I began to think that we may have to align ourselves with the truth, come what may.

I began reading anti-Catholic books and websites, just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. I realized that Protestant accusations are completely false (“Why” should be another article). Their “verse wars” and “one-liners” to justify their protesting are mostly from a 1962 book, Roman Catholicism by Loraine Boettner. I recognized in it many statements that I had been taught, not knowing that they had their origins in this book. It has been proven to be poorly researched, to say the least. Once I knew what the Catechism said, I recognized the lies.

Again, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great work. I read it from cover to cover, with Bible, lexicon, concordance, and computer (to check historical figures) at hand. It brought me in and keeps me in.

How much did losing your career slow you down in taking the plunge?

I had already gotten wise to the fallacies of the Assemblies of God, voluntarily returned my license to preach, and eventually began working in the mental health field (my bachelor’s degree is in theology; my master’s degree in pastoral counseling). However, leaving our local church, which was not AG, was difficult. We lost friends and connections. I taught a popular adult Sunday school class, and was often invited to guest preach in our valley in many churches, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When we decided to become Catholic, we wrote a letter to the pastor and to the church council stating such politely. We thanked them for their friendship and support and wrote that we would miss everyone. We still miss the family feel and connection in that world.

How long before you could pray your first Rosary?

I was slightly familiar with the Rosary because my parents sent me to a Catholic middle school in Rhode Island in an attempt to reform my juvenile delinquent ways (!).

Praying the Rosary was not a huge draw for me, but not because I thought anything negative. It just wasn’t something I felt drawn to at all.

I do have favorite prayers. The first is the Sign of the Cross, which I do many times throughout my day. Reading The Sign of the Cross by Msgr. Gaume, from 1863, moved me to embrace and love it. My two other favorite prayers are from the New Testament. “Lord, save me!” which are words from Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Another is “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” which are words from the blind beggar on the road to Jericho.

All of who I am…all of who He is…all of my relationship with Him is in these short, prayerful words.

However, roughly seven years after converting, I decided to revisit the Rosary and after a few weeks, found that I could pray through the whole thing. For several years now, and on most days of the week, I pray a full Rosary twice a day.

(This is Allison now.)

While I’ve always wanted Ken to begin the process of becoming a deacon (I miss his preaching), he is adamant that the time is not right. That his focus is on the children at home and on his job that provides for us all. I trust him.

An Interview with Ken Howell, former Assemblies of God pastor

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