Dear Pope Francis,
Tonight, for the first time in my life, I will ask the Lord to bless and strengthen the Bishop of Rome.
I heard your remarks to journalists today. You talked about a group of “wicked men” who exercise authority within the Vatican. You alluded to blackmail and other ways in which these people control and manipulate the life of the church. You asked God’s people everywhere to pray for you because you need strength and wisdom to bring reform and healing to the church.
I have been watching you. On Pentecost, I saw you pray for a man to be set free from demonic oppression. I saw you pass the peace with the Eastern Patriarch. I saw a group of Latin American Pentecostals lay their hands on you and pray for you. I watched you take a public bus to a small congregation in Rome on Sunday morning. I noticed when you took the name of the one saint nearly all followers of Jesus admire.
I am Protestant American pastor. It would be easy to dismiss your actions. It would be safe to remain silent about my interest in your ministry. I have, after all, inherited generations of mistrust and even hatred for Roman Christianity. However, I have just completed reading the Vatican II catechism, so I must acknowledge that while some of the issues of the reformation remain unresolved, they are now surprisingly few. I must also acknowledge that I feel closer to you and the message you preach than to what I hear now from either mainline Protestantism or from popular evangelicalism. I suspect I am not alone.
I am disillusioned with much of Evangelicalism because we have lost our sense of the supernatural, awe, and that divine otherness that all forms of Christianity once presupposed ought to occur in worship. Our theology has become vacuous. Our habits of piety are few. We have greatly eroded our intellectual capacity to engage the valid questions of contemporary culture. Many of us who profess conservatism no longer really teach the principles of our faith. Instead, our “conservatism” is merely a form of fear: fear of the future, fear of science, and fear of globalization.
In our county, believers have drifted into either a “liberal” or a “conservative” camp. However, believers in neither camp rarely acknowledge that both are entirely secular, one rushing to adopt changes the other merely wishes to delay. Both are often rooted in views utterly incompatible with the gospel of Christ but congratulate themselves for resisting the other side of the aisle in the name of Christ.
The proclamation of the gospel, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, a vigorous and loving explanation for the hope that lies within us, service to the poor in the name of Jesus – these are things that have become increasing marginalized in church life in our country We carry on church business like a shorn Samson, not yet understanding that the power has lifted from us.
I mention these things because whether we are a part of the “wicked men” in the Vatican; or are liberal churchmen who long ago stopped believing but who have a life-long membership in the country club due to the historical endowment of our church; or are making a career out of sanctifying nationalism in the name of Christ; or have a great entertainment business that thousands of people call “church;” we are in need of repentance.
That is why believers all over the world, even some who have been hostile to Catholicism all their lives, are now paying close attention to what you say and do.
I am one of those.
I cannot in good faith call you the Vicar of Christ. Nonetheless, I am increasingly convinced that you are a brother in Christ. Indeed, I believe you many be a prophet of Christ that God has raise up in this hour for the good of His church, for His entire church.
It would be the height of presumption to offer you any advice. However, since you asked for prayer today, I offer some heartfelt requests, requests I believe millions of other believers share.
Speak for the whole church everywhere, not merely for the Roman Catholic community.
Stand with the Copts and the other Egyptian believers, and with Christians of all kinds who suffer persecution.
Assure Pentecostals and Charismatics that their recovery of charismatic gifts is appreciated and received.
Teach those pastors throughout the world who have been seduced by wealth and power to follow Jesus by caring for the poor.
Acknowledge to the world’s Evangelicals that their work to translate God’s word into the languages of the world, and that their devotion to the study of the Holy Scriptures, are vital components of the work of Christ in the world.
Abolish the unscriptural burden of forced clerical celibacy. Please realize with the rest of the Lord’s church that this is one of the pillars of abuse and scandal in your community. Please notice that even Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have not accepted this unnatural and unscriptural burden because it is not a part of that faith once and for all delivered to the saints. If you do this, the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the world will support you. You will strengthen the Body of Christ and its witness.
Keep the course you have so courageously set in your words and deeds.
I care about these things because I believe you have a unique capacity to speak to the world on behalf of all Christians everywhere in this crucial hour.
And dear brother, you have many new friends around the world. Because you have asked us to pray for you, millions of us will – starting tonight.
Please consider me,
A new friend.