No Price Too High A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes Catholic

No Price Too High  A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes Catholic

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 29 (2007) 311-363


Alex Jones, No Price Too High: A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes Catholic (San Francisco: Igna- tius Press, 2006). xiii + 259 pp., $15.95, paper.

The title of this book immediately alerts the reader to its theme and direction. What is of interest is the route and motivation that compels Jones to make a change in his ecclesiastical and theological position. The book reads as a narrative autobiography, yet underlying the story is a foundation that reveals Jones’s inner turmoil as he searches for spiritual fulfillment. The reader travels from Jones’s childhood experience in the Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ, through his conversion, education, and African-American-Holiness Pentecostal ministerial experience, into his full embrace of Catholicism, and his ordination as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. Jones transitions from his “extreme form” of racism that held that “Whites just couldn’t be saved” to a more ecumenical form that finds a commonality of faith among all Christian denominations (66). In a similar manner, the second part of Alex Jones’s book narrates this journey from the perspective of Donna, his wife.

T rough the narration of his life story, Jones unfolds his discovery of the history of the Christian Church and his reaction to his first exposure of the spiritual depth of the writing of the patristic theologians. He revels to learn of the richness and heritage of the liturgical and historical ritual of Christian worship. Ironically, Jones posits a dichotomy between his Pentecostal spirituality and the intellectual reasoning of the Roman Catholic Church. Jones writes, “I can use my intellect without fear of losing my spirituality or heavenly focus” (6). His definition of being Pentecostal appears not to include the intellect or the embrace of the Church Fathers. Jones’s Pentecostalism segregates his connection with the whole “cath- olic” church. Perhaps the step from his former separatist position of an African-American- Holiness Pentecostal to acceptance of the Roman Catholic tradition is too great for him to bridge without segregating the two.

Jones not only makes the denominational transition personally, but he also takes the majority of his African-American Pentecostal congregation with him. This is not without huge social and theological challenges. A key theological question for Jones is, “How could I possibly introduce liturgy and formal rites to a congregation whose entire ethos was deeply rooted in a personal and emotional approach to God” (115). A key social question for Jones is, How can we embrace the Roman Catholic Church and maintain our African-American distinctive? For Jones, this must be an either/or proposition rather than a both/and oppor- tunity. Again, perhaps this is rooted in the Holiness dogma of theological separatism. Regardless, Jones thinks that his first attempt to blend the Pentecostal and Roman Catholic traditions creates “an aberrant form of Christianity” (94). While in Africa in 2003, how- ever, Jones rejoiced to see the African ethos blended in the Roman Catholic ritual, implying that the whiteness of his Roman Catholic Church in Detroit stands to benefit from this type of inclusively.

As he narrates his rediscovery of an integrated spirituality in the patristic writings, Jones seems surprised to discover that the “charismatic gifts never ceased,” or that “there has always been a charismatic dimension within the Church” (126). Integral to his journey is the mentoring that he receives from trusted Roman Catholic friends. A theology professor, Bill Riordan, guides Jones through key patristic authors. Jones’s understanding came, “not

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/157007407X238060

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 29 (2007) 311-363

because I went to a seminary and studied sacramental theology — but because I had read the Church Fathers” (157-58).

The reader of this biographical journey will be pleased to observe the process of spiritual growth in the lives of the Joneses and their congregation. It exemplifies the praxis of an ecumenical spirit. Jones has a voice that needs to be heard in the ongoing pneumatological dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal traditions. Likewise, he offers a distinct voice for the African-American participation in this conversation.

Reviewed by John R. Miller

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