On June 24, 2014, Saint Jean Baptiste Day, annually celebrated in Canada we also celebrate what took place at Palazzo Santa Marta, Vatican City where invited guests gathered at Pope Francis’s private residence. Guest include John and Carol Arnott (Founders of Catch The Fire), Kenneth Copeland (Founder of KCM Ministries), James Robison (Founder of Life Outreach Int.), Geoff Tunnicliffe (Head of Worldwide Evangelical Alliance), and Tony Palmer (Bishop & Int. Ecumenical Officer of the Communion Evangelical Episcopal Churches). These ministries met for a cordial gathering and lunch to begin a friendly relationship that could have a far reaching impact.
This initiative by Pope Francis is a further reaching out to the Evangelical world after his cell phone message recorded earlier this year. This time it is followed up by bringing the five ministry leaders who represent a large portion (in total approx. 900 Million Evangelicals) of the body together for a historical event, which is undeniably God-orchestrated. At the age of 77, Pope Francis is full of strength, bold, outgoing, a people’s person, charismatic, and Spirit-filled. Weekly, tens of thousands of people flock to St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday mornings to hear him share. People are drawn into experiencing the fullness of being a Christian through a daily relationship with Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. He has the potential of being one of the greatest evangelists of the Gospel today! One of the pivotal reasons of today’s meeting was to start a conversation together in what it means to receive SALVATION personally. This was the beginning of a Joint Declaration between this large faction of the Evangelical world and the Roman Catholic Church.
All churches — Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox — at times make audacious statements about one another, negating the other and affirming itself, as if the individual church had a monopoly on what it means to be Spirit-filled and born again. From my experience as an Evangelical minister with Charismatic/Pentecostal influence, unless our church remains prophetic, we have a tendency towards institutionalism and legalism. If it smells like “Religion”, I don’t want it. I want God and a relationship with him, not a form of religion. If you can say amen to this, you probably use the same Evangelical language most of us as Evangelical ministers do. However, I have to enlighten you. I first heard this kind of language through the mouth of Pope Francis. We may be more in sync with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and the Orthodox than we are aware.
Now imagine that every church’s core aim was to be made up of followers of Jesus who are born again and Spirit-filled. Will you not rejoice and pray for Pope Francis? He is a man of influence and popularity who has a large weekly audience — with probably some of the largest open air meetings in our time. Many have had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis in action. Out in the square 40 minutes before the weekly meeting starts, he blesses children, touches all who he can reach, and walk freely in the crowd. After all the mingling, the service starts, and he sticks with the script and preaches the Gospel, but he periodically puts the script aside and spontaneously speaks to people's hearts. Once the service is officially over, he is back mingling with the people and ends the day praying for the sick. Doesn’t this sound like Jesus?
In the weeks to come we are going to be hearing many news reports, articles and TV shows, both good and bad. Let me encourage you not to entertain some of the negative reports that have always been around regarding deceptive conspiracies. If you have embraced some of them, may I ask you to be open to hearing the heart of what John & Carol Arnott may have to say with their experience with the Pope or James Robison and others? We will hear more from them in the days to come. Many of us have been trained in our thinking to question things by saying, “could any good come out of Rome?” I have been encouraged by the leaders who have had positive dreams considering te Catholic Church, such as Steve Long (Senior Leader at Catch The Fire) and Dan Slade (International Coordinator of the Partners In Harvest Network). Dan had a dream (or a possibly a visitation) where he literally saw gold falling on Roman Catholics. I personally like to joke with my Romans Catholic friends by saying that they were the last mainline church that came into the Charismatic Renewal in 1967, but that they could possibly be the first to be in the greatest move that is yet to come before the return of our Lord. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
If you are a leader in your Christian community and/or Church and have any questions and/or desire to learn more about reconciliation and unity and about what God is doing in the Roman Catholic Church (specifically in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal) come and join Bishop Tony Palmer and other leaders such as Professor Matteo Calisi and Deacon Carlos Nogueira of the Archdiocese of Toronto.
The details are as follows.
Please email me personally for an invite to RSVP.
Friday, August 22, 2014, 9am-5pm. (Leaders only by invitation)
Location: Attwell Centre
272 Attwell Dr. Toronto (nearby the Toronto Airport)
M9W 6M3 Canada
The program for Friday evening and for the following day, Saturday, August 23, is open to all. Bishop Tony Palmer will be the invited speaker at the family service on Sunday, August 24 at Catch The Fire Toronto Church. Service starts at 10:30 a.m. The meetings are not just geared to helping Evangelicals learn about Catholics. Generally speaking, there has been an equal struggle for Catholics. It has been long upward journey for Catholics to accept the Evangelical world. There has been a greater openness with the pontificate of Pope Francis. With the last four Popes we have seen an increase of acceptance. Prior to the Second Vatican Council II the thought of having any kind of “Joint Declaration”, especially regarding Faith and Mission, was unheard of but now possible and a reality.
Outside of building a common relationship, what is it that such a gathering will bring? It is not some kind of scheme to win back those who have left the Roman Catholic Church, nor is it a unifying ploy to return the Church back to Rome as it once was. In a Global context it would really be interesting to see how Jesus sees His church that He is returning for and gave His life as a ransom.
After Vatican Council II, Evangelicals were referred to as “separated brethren” and the idea of this separation in light of ecumenism took on a more cordial form with a term used by Pope John Paul II as “Organic Unity”. The Roman Catholic Church spoke of this term often but the problem with it is that it very distant and non-relational. The thought behind the concept is, “we can’t make it happen, so let us be spectators of it". It grows on its own to a higher ecclesial level (Church level) and eventually to the magisterium (Church authority). Any honest Catholic would say that the strides forward in this motion were short and slow.
What we have today with Pope Francis is a term called “Reconciled Diversity”. This term and concept was being explored when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before his election as Pope, presented it to a group of Waldensians in 1993. It seems humorous and ironic that the term and the concept used today by Pope Francis is taken from a Lutheran Theologian, Oscar Cullman who died in 1999. It is very clear for those who have ears to hear that many Catholics still hold to the “old school”, as I call it, of Organic Unity. Organic Unity in itself is still a valid form when considering the Holy Spirit is still behind the scenes to make things happen, and that there are those who hope that all will become restored to Rome. All the same, Pope Francis would like to see something different happen: Reconciled Diversity.
Reconciled Diversity means a “Unity In Diversity” without compromise. Therefore, it is possible to create a Joint Declaration for the purpose of Faith and Mission. The five ministries' leaders, as seen in the photos above and below, will together proclaim and affirm the pre-existing article on the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ (3:15):
15. In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.
When these ministries, represented by the five delegates, speak of Salvation they mean the first and fundamental conversion necessary for all, even for those baptized before hearing the Gospel. This conversion consists of coming under painful conviction that one is a sinner, and that a once and for all repentance from that state of being is essential. This is a decision to trust Jesus’ completed work on the cross to remit and break the hold of sin, with a personal and on-going surrender to him as Lord.
There is much more to all this - the leaders presented Pope Francis concrete ways forward in his initiative by presenting him their written intention of a Joint Declaration, similar to that of the Lutheran Church. There is mention in the intent that it would be great joy to celebrate 2017 with an act of Reconciliation. The delegation intend to commit themselves to mutual love and fraternal fellowship while embracing each other's unique diversities, and recognizing their common commitment to the core of the Christian faith, while not minimizing each other's distinctive gifts.
The most exciting part is the commitment to Unity of Faith and Mission, and it will be a miracle to stand united in essential Christian beliefs, while expressing them in varied forms, so that we can evangelize together and cooperate as disciples of Christ in visible unity, for the well-being of all Humanity, so that the World will believe that the Father sent His Son!
Yours in Christ,
United In Christ, Canada
Dr. Bruno Ierullo