Baptist-Raised Bible Belt Twins Find Two Different Faiths

Brad and Chad Jones in the backyard of their family home in Elkin, N.C. (DHANRAJ EMANUEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
Brad and Chad Jones in the backyard of their family home in Elkin, N.C. (DHANRAJ EMANUEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

How two brothers, raised Baptist, found their way to two different faiths

Many people change faiths, but not like Brad and Chad Jones.

Identical twins, the brothers grew up in Elkin, N.C., a small town in the Bible Belt, the only children of devout Baptists. As boys, they attended the First Baptist Church of Elkin, studied Scripture, went to vacation Bible school and sang in the choir, as did many of their cousins, classmates and neighbors.

Today, Brad, 43, is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Charlotte, and Chad is an Anglican bishop in Atlanta. Their parents, Jo Anne and Robert, remain faithful members of their Baptist congregation. When their sons visit, each celebrates mass according to his own rite in the dining room or living room of what has become a very ecumenical Jones household.

More than half of the U.S. adult population has changed religious affiliations at least once during their lives, most before they reach 50, according to a 2009 Faith in Flux report by the Pew Research Center. In many cases, the move is from one major religious tradition to another, say, Protestantism to Catholicism, but it also includes those who leave organized religion altogether.

While some people leave their childhood religion, only to return later, about 44% do not currently belong to the religion in which they were raised. “Many people offer more than one reason for having changed religions,” says Greg Smith, Associate Director of Research at Pew. A spouse or partner belongs to another church, so they join that one. As adults, they disagree with teachings unquestioned in their youth. For others, the break is less about external factors than internal needs for something more spiritual and finding another church to fill that void.

That was the case of Brad and Chad Jones. The brothers shared a sense that something was missing in the Baptist Church and embarked on a common path to find it, but ended up in different places, far from their roots and each other. One is celibate, the other married with four children. Father Brad embraces the authority of the pope. Bishop Chad doesn’t.

“My brother went one direction and I went to another,” says Bishop Chad. Each, though, is deeply committed and content with his decision.

Tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Elkin is a rural working-class community, historically dominated by farms and mills and the Baptist Church. The Jones family blended in, their father working for a large building contractor and their mother a homemaker.

The boys were well-behaved and inseparable. Kindred souls, as preschoolers they spoke to each other in “twin language,” their mother said, using words that no one else understood. Neither was athletic, but both were musically inclined, joining the choir at the age of 6 and later playing in the high school marching band. Father Brad played the tuba and sousaphone. Bishop Chad, the more outgoing of the two, was the drum major his senior year. They were avid readers, digesting encyclopedias and discussing them.

“They were always in a corner, reading a book,” says Mrs. Jones.

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal
Clare Ansberry

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