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Patheos: It all started with an iPhone

6. maj 2015

Elizabeth Scalia,, skriver bl.a.:

As I am still trying to finish a book, and also assist with a technical transition here at Patheos, I am pleased to present this ecumenically-minded post that focuses on the beginnings of the relationship between Pope Francis and the late Rev. Tony Palmer, and where the writer hopes it will lead. –ES

Guest post by Sean J. Connolly

It all started with an iPhone.

On January 14, 2014, Tony Palmer, a charismatic bishop from a little-known Anglican communion, used his phone to shoot a video of a friend—Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. In the video, Francis opened his heart to a group of Pentecostal leaders affiliated with Kenneth Copeland’s ministry.

“I am speaking to you as a brother,” Francis told them. “Let us allow our yearning to grow, because that will allow us find each other, to embrace one another, and together to worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history.”

He added: “the miracle of unity has begun.”

This is the story of that miracle. Its threads cut through the spiritual divides that separate mainline Protestants, Catholics and Pentecostals. But in tracing them, the main protagonist is the Holy Spirit, which means that anything could happen.

The week after recording the video, Bishop Palmer traveled to Texas to introduce Francis’s greeting to the Pentecostals. He was uniquely positioned to do so. Palmer had given his life to Jesus in a Pentecostal church in South Africa. He was married to an Italian Catholic. He had become an Anglican priest and bishop, and he had adopted a Catholic Cardinal from Buenos Aires named Jorge Mario Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) as one of his spiritual fathers.

In a fiery speech that set the stage, Palmer read from the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” In that document the two confessions declared that they share a common understanding of the basis for salvation—and therefore that the central theological disagreement of the Reformation had been resolved. As Palmer put it: “The protest is over.”

Methodists had joined Lutherans and Catholics in signing the declaration in 2006, yet millions of Christians had never heard of the declaration and so were living their lives as if the protest was still in force. But Palmer didn’t dwell on the past. He had come to the conference to play the role of John the Baptist, of a prophet burning to announce something greater that was yet to come. “We are living in an incredibly important generation,” he declared.

After watching the pope’s greeting on a giant screen, the Pentecostal leaders rose to their feet. They prayed for Francis enthusiastically, with their hands raised, in tongues and in the Spirit. “My dear sir,” Kenneth Copeland said. “Thank you so, from the bottom of our hearts.”

Francis’s greeting was not supposed to become public, but the month after the conference in Texas, someone posted video from the conference on YouTube. “It went wild,” Palmer’s wife, Emiliana, told me. Palmer was bombarded with emails from evangelicals and Pentecostals who wanted to be part of the unity miracle. Emiliana called Francis, wondering what to do. He told her to “let it go” — the wind of the Spirit was blowing.

In June 2014, the video led to a meeting in Rome that included Palmer, Francis, Copeland and another TV preacher, James Robison. All told, the leaders at the meeting represented more than 1.8 billion Christians, including the Pentecostal movement, the fastest-growing segment of the church.

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Samme emne her på Crux: I en ny video, opfordrer Pave Frans katolikker og protestanter til at arbejde sammen