I’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.
- 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.
- The role of women in the church.
- The new evangelization that balances heartfelt love for God with the ongoing development of good and sound doctrine.
- The efforts by all the cardinals to advance Pope Francis’ agenda.
- The challenges the secretary of state faces.
- 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.