It was a long journey. But after six years, the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, John Giles, and his wife, Deborah, were confirmed and welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church at St. Peter's Parish in Montgomery this past Easter.
In an interview, Giles told The Associated Press that when he first sat in on a Catholic mass six years ago, he couldn’t really follow it, but he was reduced to tears and he didn’t know why.
He pursued this new interest and became fascinated by the Catholic Church’s history and ritual. He continued to learn about the faith, visiting Israel and Rome, and learning always more, until finally realizing that many of his past beliefs about the Catholic Church and its teachings had been wrong.
Unlike most people, Giles conversion to Catholicism has not been a private affair, but he understands the public interest given his job as president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.
Most people seem to want to know why he converted, Giles told AP, and he has tried to answer all of these questions and explain his reasoning in an eight-page letter. Giles said he relates to their questioning since, as a Protestant he, too, had misperceptions about Catholicism.
He illustrated this point in recounting an experience that he had at a friend’s house one evening in Florida. There he met a lady, who was teaching a Sunday School class on cults. When describing her class, her list of cults included Catholicism.
Giles admits that his decision to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism is not a popular one in the majority Protestant state of Alabama, but he hopes that it will help in building bridges between Christian groups where there were none before. He hopes that his constituents will an open mind.