Reflections on Historic Meetings to Advance the Life and Ministry of Jesus

iStock_000001954700SmallI’ve spent today reflecting. So much has happened over the last week that I’ll need time to see everything in proper perspective. As it turned out, the Vatican Foundation served as our official host. They direct a variety of projects for the pope, and we’re just one of many groups they’ll invite for ongoing dialogue.

The foundation coordinated different elements of our trip with various people who belong to the loose association of faith-based politicians known as The Fellowship. Doug Coe, who leads the organization, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, former Senator Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, and Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest congregation in North America, all traveled with our group.

I appreciated getting a sense of Doug Coe and his hopes for the future. He’s committed to his expression of the Jesus project and hopes it will gain even greater momentum as we move ahead.

It was also good to talk with the two U.S. senators and hear where they think our country is headed. Dirk Kempthorne has a long and storied history in politics, including serving in the U.S. Senate, as secretary of the interior, and as governor of Idaho. Mike Lee, a first-term senator from Utah, comes from an academic and familial background in constitutional law; his father worked as solicitor general under Reagan and, his brother currently serves on the Utah Supreme Court. He seems to have a bright future.

Interacting with Joel Osteen provided a fascinating and uplifting experience. I didn’t know what to expect, but I found a sincerity and genuineness in him both radiant and joyful, and I appreciated and enjoyed him.

Other people involved included international business executives from Nigeria, Kenya, Israel and Great Britain, entertainers from New Orleans, and business executives and biotech engineers from Alabama, Newport Beach and Orange County. Tim Timmons, the founding pastor of the first mega church in Southern California, also participated.

So many issues introduced during the week will face stiff headwinds in the weeks and months ahead.

  1. The efforts to reform the Vatican Bank will be difficult but necessary. Several in our group had the privilege of meeting Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was named as the first secretariat of the economy, a new position Pope Francis created to clean up the Vatican Bank.
  2. The role of women in the church.
  3. The new evangelization that balances heartfelt love for God with the ongoing development of good and sound doctrine.
  4. The efforts by all the cardinals to advance Pope Francis’ agenda.
  5. The challenges the secretary of state faces.
  6. The challenge of forming a consensus that can come together quickly enough and stay together long enough to make a difference.

The multiple opportunities to participate in historic meetings shaping the way forward will linger in my mind forever. Meeting the pope is an experience I’ll never forget. It’s so clear that he faces significant work ahead, but Pope Francis remains unbowed and, like his namesake, will seek to reform the church in the name of Jesus.

As I return home, I do so with a renewed sense of the necessity and importance of our work at Westmont and with the broader Christian community and the opportunity to carry it out with so many wonderful people.

6 Responses to Reflections on Historic Meetings to Advance the Life and Ministry of Jesus

  1. Ralph Beebe says:

    As Gayle’s uncle I have been personally proud of him for many years. This trip was a fantastic opportunity for him to display his special talents. Thank you, Gayle, for the great work you are doing for Jesus’ kingdom. From their places in Heaven, your Mom and Dad are proud of you. May God continue to bless you, and many others, such as the Pope and Joel Osteen through you.
    Your Uncle Ralph Beebe, Prof. of History Emeritus, George Fox University, Newberg, OR.

  2. Gregory Orfalea says:

    Dear Gayle,

    Wonderfully proud of you visiting the Vatican and meeting Pope Francis I. This is indeed an historic moment. I wasn’t aware it was in the offing. I am, however, overwhelmed with feelings of hope, proud of you, proud of Westmont, and grateful for a new Pope with the vision of St. Francis of Assisi himself and a desire for the unity of all Christians, as well as outreach to the faithful of the other monotheisms. What separates us is so much less than what unites us!

    One trembles with the power of the linkage of such good.

    Bless you, keep inspiring us, and may God keep you safe.

    GO

  3. John Draper says:

    What keeps ringing in my ears and my heart is Jesus’ promise in John 13 that “all people will know that you are my disciples IF you have love for one another.” And, it would appear to many (NT Wright and others) that the rapid expansion of the church in the first century can be attributed in part to the willingness of the early followers to risk everything in demonstrating this unconditional love towards everyone including the untouchables of Roman society, babies abandoned to die because of some birth defect, and even to the privileged.

    Here, perhaps, with this unique pope who dared to take the name of Francis, we have a chance to re-unite in our love for one another and demonstrate that we are indeed disciples of Jesus.

  4. The life and ministry of Jesus are not in need of this kind of advancement. In fact, this is a step backwards against the Reformation. When Jesus said that He desired the body of Christ to “be one, even as we are one” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) this expressed desire was preceded by: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The Roman Catholic Church has so many errors both in doctrine and practice. It’s practices are full of idolatry. This is especially true of the Mass. The “bread” becomes the actual body of Christ and its ingestion therefore is how Catholics have “Christ in you.” Praying to Mary and other saints, the Pope calling himself “holy father”, putting the church above the Word of God, and on and on the RCC is one of the devil’s best tools to pull the wool over the eyes of the undiscerning. You cannot have the unity of the Spirit of God with people who practice idolatry.

    • Timothy Cleary says:

      So much of what you say reminds me of our Lord’s imagery of straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel. There are many errors in Roman Catholic doctrine but the ones you cite are inconsistent with other things Protestants believe as well as being less important.

      The 6th chapter of John’s Gospel presents significant problems for those who view the bread and wine as something other than His body and blood, as does Paul’s observation that some of those who received Him unworthily in communion became sick and died. A mere memorial doesn’t kill one. Protestants believe that the blood of Jesus saves and that the bible is God’s special word to us. Both of these physical things are endowed with the special, salvific presence of God. How is that possible? They’re just corpuscles and words, aren’t they? You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re a consistent sacramentalist or you’re an inconsistent sacramentarian (one who doesn’t believe God can use physical matter as a means of His saving presence).

      Putting the church above the Word of God: I’m going to assume you mean the regular Protestant meaning of the Word of God, which means the bible. But the Word of God (primary meaning – see John 1) is the incarnate God, our Lord. He is the Word of God that will endure when scripture is no longer needed because we will behold Him face to face. Remember that the bible is the church’s book, given by it and ratified as God’s Word. Interpretation of it for the first thousand years was always held to be the special province of the what the church had always believed (everywhere, always, and by all, according to St. Vincent of Lerins). It was no progress over Roman Catholicism to say that the Pope was no longer the supreme interpreter of what scripture meant if the locus of authority was removed to the individual believer. That merely replaces one Pope with his atomization into each of us being our own individual Pope. That hardly strikes me as a great leap forward. Your mileage may vary. It strikes me the great idol of Protestantism, speaking of idolatry.

      Praying to Mary and other saints: do you ask other believers to pray for you? Do you believe that believers who have died are alive in Christ? Is our fellowship with the church triumphant cut off by death? Believers of previous ages affirmed a more robust notion of the communion of the saints. (See the Prayer for All Saints Day in the old Book of Common Prayer for a supernal example of this.)

      Roman Catholics have doctrinal issues that must be addressed and resolved before reunion is possible. But they aren’t primarily the ones you cite. They are papal supremacy and a deficient understanding of relations within the Trinity (the double procession of the Holy Spirit, contrary to our Lord’s affirmation in the Upper Room discourse). Protestants rightly rebelled against the first and ignore and assume the errors of the second. Shorthand summary: Roman Catholics believe too much (indulgences, Purgatory, etc.); Protestants believe too little (most of what you cite).

      • Elena Yee says:

        I recently was confirmed as a Catholic after 30 years being an evangelical Christian. I assure you that I asked all the hard questions and came away with a sense of openness and a willingness to dialogue that I haven’t ever really experienced when I attended evangelical churches.

        I absolutely disagree with some aspects of Catholic doctrine yet unlike when I was an evangelical I’m not accused of being less Christian, less faithful when my politics was more aligned with a more democratic perspective.

        The truth is that Catholic Social Teaching and Pope Francis seems to embody more a sincere faith in Christ while also living it out to care for the “least of these.”

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