Are you sitting down for this? In that video, Pope Francis sends heartfelt greetings and a wish for Christian unity to a Pentecostal conference in Texas headed by TV evangelist Kenneth Copeland. Here’s the blog post talking about it. If you follow the post, take a look at the longer video from the conference at the bottom of the entry. If you go to the 39 minute mark, you will see the Texas TV evangelist praying for Pope Francis favorably, in tongues.
My Texas wife: “I can’t believe that. My entire childhood is being shredded.” She’s joking, but she’s saying something important: that for a man like Kenneth Copeland to embrace the Pope is a big, big deal.
Anyway, at least watch the Francis video. It shows why he’s so successful as Pope. He clearly speaks from a kind heart, and that’s a hard thing to resist. Seriously, as much as I, as a trad-symp, get frustrated with him, I find it impossible to dislike the man, or to fail to respond favorably to his radiant joy.
UPDATE: Dale Coulter, in First Things:
That the pope would say this to a group of charismatic ministers in the United States is significant, all the more so since a pope who identifies so much with Il Poverello, Francis of Assisi, was speaking to a branch of the charismatic movement that emphasizes prosperity.
It seems to me that Francis models for us how dialogue can move forward. It must begin with a mutual embrace that refuses to give in to stereotypes about the other. Yes, there are clear doctrinal differences, which Francis does not deny. His greeting, however, suggests that the hard task of finding common ground begins with calling one another brother and sister. Francis did not rush to offer a theological critique of the prosperity gospel although he certainly could have. Instead, he presented the option of moving closer theologically by mutual recognition and embrace. I have been privileged to do just that through Evangelicals and Catholics Together and Francis has invited all of us to do the same.
When people wonder why Evangelicals embrace Francis, they fail to see that Jorge Bergoglio had been connecting with evangelicals through the charismatic movement for quite some time. This greeting resulted from a relationship that Pope Francis has had with the broader charismatic movement in general and Tony Palmer in particular, who facilitated the connection. Tony Palmer’s vision to bring Christians together merged with Pope Francis’ vision to make this greeting possible. My own colleague at Regent, Vinson Synan has had more than one audience with Archbishop Bergoglio.
There is a way forward together. It’s not easy. But it may just be that we need a man who embodies the spirit of Francis of Assisi. Who will make the surprising moves of crossing lines to speak just as Francis of Assisi did when he broke through the crusader soldiers to speak to the caliph, Malik-al-Kamil. Once again Pope Francis has pointed us toward a future bright with possibility.