I’m a member of the Churches of Christ (COC). The COC is an American low church tradition from the Stone-Campbell restoration movement of the early nineteenth century. I favor this tradition because it emphasizes ecumenism through Christian minimalism.

Catholicism has been the greatest challenge to my COC identity because it represents a nearly opposite ideology. I have visited Catholic clergy, studied their doctrines, and meditated on my relationship to the Catholic Church. There are three reasons I will not convert to Catholicism in the near future.

Firstly, I feel uncomfortable with too many Catholic doctrines to practice them without violating my conscience. After moving to China last year, I’ve come to think the Catholic veneration of saints is too similar to Chinese ancestor worship. I cannot find a significant difference between them. Considering the multitude of Bible verses condemning idolatry, I cannot venerate saints without violating my faith, and the practice is so central to Catholicism it doesn’t seem practical for me to convert and avoid it.

Secondly, my decision is based on probability and its relationship to the Church’s inerrancy claims. Much of the Church’s legitimacy is based upon a claim to sole authority and inerrancy. According to the Church, it cannot err doctrinally as a body. However, after surveying history, I’ve found numerous questionable doctrines (Assumption of Mary, transubstantiation, papal infallibility, etc.). If even one of these doctrines is untrue it delegitimizes the entire Church. It is statistically unlikely the church is correct on all these precarious positions; especially when the positions are not consistent.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church’s doctrines are often historically inconsistent. Its modern doctrine of sex and marriage, for example, appears to directly contradict St. Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. Its position on celibate bishops defies Paul’s qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2. Its positions on historical events like the Inquisition and the Crusades have shifted dramatically. Pope Francis has condemned the death penalty and contradicted all of Catholic history (I understand Pope Francis wasn’t defining doctrine, but still). How can I believe the Church is inerrant when it doesn’t agree with itself?

I do not view Catholicism as an enemy, and I believe Catholics are fellow Christians. However, for the reasons outlined, I cannot in good conscience join the Catholic Church.