Westmont President Gayle D. Beebe and 14 North American Protestant leaders will meet privately with Pope Francis on Thursday, June 5, at the Vatican. Beebe, representing Christian higher education in the ecumenical conversation, will be joined by politicians, theologians and pastors. Beebe will be the only college president in the group.
The pope invited the Protestant leaders to discuss the question: “Can we find common ground in order to advance the life and ministry of Jesus so more people can experience the joy of Christian faith?”
“Recently, Pope Francis has clearly stated that he wants to invite Christians everywhere to seek unity in Christ,” Beebe says. “His recent trip to the Holy Land included a visit with Bartholomew, patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Why does he desire to dissolve the long factions dating back hundreds of centuries? He believes that our post-Christian world has developed not simply indifference to Christianity but outright hostility, which corrodes the life-giving power of the Gospel. If we are to combat it, we will have to learn how to work together.
“Of course, this appeal is not new. Catholics and Protestants in America have been working together for decades. But the desire that we do so as equals and not as adversaries is new.”
Earlier in the week, the group met with Vatican staff members, toured the Vatican and attended the Convocation of Renewal at Olympic Stadium in Rome.
Before he left, Beebe held a 90-minute conversation with five Westmont faculty members to explore the pope’s question. Video excerpts of the discussion and reflections are available at westmont.edu/vaticanvisit/.
Before coming to Westmont in 2007, Beebe led Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years. He earned his doctorate in the philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate School and previously served as dean of the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University. An active scholar, he coauthored “Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion” with Richard Foster and served as senior editor with Dallas Willard for the “Life with God Spiritual Formation Bible.” His most recent book is “The Shaping of an Effective Leader: Eight Formative Principles of Leadership.”