Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Bishop of Rome Travels to America

(For link to the Pope's U.S. visit click here.)

The Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict, arrives in the United States today. His theme for his U.S. visit is "Christ Our Hope." (Perhaps we, Nazarenes should listen in, since our quadrennial theme has been "Jesus . . . The Hope.")

As a Nazarene, I am well aware of some of the anti-Catholic sentiments that fill some Nazarenes and other Protestant Christians. I've heard reports at district assemblies about conversions, and it is often mentioned if the person experiencing the conversion was a former Catholic (as though their conversion is something to really rejoice about!). And, it doesn't help matters when missions materials spout things like, "This country is almost completely non-Christian; it is 90% Roman Catholic." Such attitudes may not possess all Nazarenes or Protestants, but they are expressed by far too many. - Often times these views have been reinforced by unfortunate (and I would argue unsound) interpretations of the Book of the Revelation which have identified the Church of Rome with "the great whore." - How sad! (But it does explain some of the attitudes of many Evangelical Christians.)

Oh, I know there are a number of things with which we and the Roman Church disagree. And I could enumerate them. However, I think far too many spend far too much time doing so. Besides, I just think that there are far more (significant) things that we have in common, including (but not limited to) our claim that Jesus Christ is our one Lord, the creeds (expressing our one faith), our practice of the sacrament of our one baptism, and our profession of our one God and Father of all (cf., Ephesians 4:5).

For my part, I pray that the visit of Pope Benedict will be used by God to draw people to God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our one Lord. I pray that the good Bishop would be used as an instrument of God to foster a more "catholic" (i.e., universal) spirit throughout Christ's one Church. After all, didn't Christ, Himself, pray that we be one?

For all Wesleyan/Methodist Christians, it might not be a bad idea to take a look at: John Wesley's, "A Letter to a Roman Catholic."

One should also read the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This document, originally agreed on by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church, was also adopted by the World Methodist Council at their last conference. (It was a unanimous vote, including the delegates from the Church of the Nazarene. We are, of course, a denominational member of the WMC.)

Also of interest might be David M. Chapman's In Search of the Catholic Spirit: Methodists and Roman Catholics in Dialogue. Peterborough, Great Britain: Epworth Press, 2004. (This book was reviewed by John W. Wright in the most recent issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal.)

For Nazarenes, in addition to the above, I would encourage a reading of Chapter 7 "The Roman Catholic Church" in either What Is a Nazarene? Understanding Our Place in the Religious Communion (Wes Tracy & Stan Ingersol. Beacon Hill Press, NPH.) or Here We Stand: Where Nazarenes Fit in the Religious Market Place (the latter being an expanded book that contains the former book). - The treatment of other Christian traditions in these books seems to be fair and in a spirit of Christlike generosity, identifying commonalities, as well as differences in the way that we understand the Christian faith.

In the meantime, I offer this prayer for the Pope (adapted from Wesley's ritual for "The Ordination of Superintendents"):

Most merciful Father, send down upon your servant, Benedict, your heavenly blessing, and so endue him with your Holy Spirit, the he, preaching your Word, may not only be earnest to reprove, beseech, and rebuke with all patience and sound doctrine, but also may be to believers a wholesome example in word, in conversations, in love, in faith, in charity, and in purity; that faithfully fulfilling his course, at the latter day he may receive the crown of righteousness laid up by the Lord, the righteous Judge, who lives and reigns one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen


Katharine said...

When my brother Ian wants to embarrass me, all he has to do is look at me and say "The Whore of Babylon." Ah, high school and the things I thought!

As I've grown I have noted that I have far more in common with serious Catholics than I ever could have imagined. The views on family in particular strike a chord.

Brannon Hancock said...


Steve said...

Todd...thanks for writing this blog. Good reading.