Though I have enjoyed writing for over a year about Peter, I want to diverge today and reflect on an unusual meeting last week.
First I should touch on a video of a conference several months ago in Texas. In a conference hosted by Charismatic-prosperity teacher Kenneth Copeland, a former associate of his named Tony Palmer spoke. Palmer is an Anglican bishop and had a longtime friendship with a Catholic archbishop named Jose Mario Bergolio—now known as Pope Francis. Palmer make a case for the “protest” of the reformation to now be over. It was a compelling one with a joint Catholic-Lutheran statement that we are “saved by grace through faith unto good works”. After making a case that the “protest” is over and asks “What are you protesting?”, he then introduces a video from Pope Francis that is mostly in Italian with English subtitles. You can see the entire video here. Some may not like the emotional aspect of Copeland the first five minutes but I encourage you to stick with it. The message gets deep and very much points to, what I perceive, as the thought and intent of Jesus.
This sparked a surge in ecumenical dialogue that influenced leaders from different Christian traditions in the Phoenix area. Last Sunday was at least the second such meeting with leaders of different Christian traditions and the first my family and I were able to attend. This one happened to be in the very parish we attend.
There were several things I liked about it. One was the worship. There was “Lord, I Need You”, “Heart of Worship”, and “Come Holy Spirit”. There were two Protestant ministers and also the auxiliary bishop of our archdiocese Bishop Nevares. I was blessed by all of the speakers and encouraged to appreciate the different gifts in the Body of Christ.
I know there is some room for growth for more unity among those that calls themselves Christian but it will happen. I know this because Jesus asked for this the night he was betrayed and it is the only prayer of His that has not been fulfilled. His rationale is simple: “this is how they will know that you are my disciples, that you subscribe to the exact doctrine.” No? “that you love one another.”
I have seen some barriers to unity in my own journey. In my case I was a very well formed Evangelical Protestant Christian for thirty years but was received into the Catholic Church last year (my wife joined me this past Easter). My view of my faith now, and the lens by which I viewed my brethren at the meeting, is as an Evangelical Catholic Christian instead. I see my Christian experience of the joy of receiving and sharing the gospel as fulfilled in the Church that Christ established on a simple fisherman two thousand years ago. The best channel for experiencing that grace, per my view after much prayer and study, is in the Catholic Church.
But that does not minimize how awesome my brothers and sisters are in other communities. If I were given the choice to have lunch with my priest or Billy Graham, I would choose Graham. There is much that Catholics can learn from Protestants and vice-versa. Once we remind ourselves of the common ground in the Nicene Creed (google it if you have never heard of it) and the common baptism then we can work on communicating.
The accord of 1999 that I mentioned above is a great part of it that could be a catalyst for the Body of Christ to change the world. There are in this world 1.2 billion Catholics. If you combine Greek Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Protestants with the Catholic Church then you have over a billion.
Now imagine the meetings I went to times a million for evangelistic purposes. The credentials of the people of God in the New Testament were that they were to love one another and appear to be ones that have been with Jesus. What is stopping us? Is God really in a box or have we put Him there through our assumptions.
My hope is for the day that God’s kingdom does come “on earth as it is in heaven”.
Ephesians 4:13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.