Pope Francis “Doesn’t Want to Convert Evangelicals”?

Pope Francis Meets with Kenneth Copeland and other Evangelical Leaders

After meeting with a group of Pentecostal Evangelicals Pope Francis reportedly wants to preach in a Protestant church in Rome. This article reports on the meeting held in Rome with Pope Francis and TV Evangelist Kenneth Copeland and other Evangelical leaders including theologian Brian Stiller and Anglican bishop Tony Palmer.

The Pope wants to go to the Evangelical church and apologize for all the times Catholics have been nasty to Protestants. That is, of course, very wonderful and we will be waiting not only for them to graciously accept the apology, but to offer their own in return. I’m reminded of the time Pope John Paul II on Ash Wednesday of the Jubilee Year led a service of public penitence for sins committed by Catholics against lots of people…including Protestant Christians.

This loving and humble gesture was met with silence by Protestants and not a peep from any Protestant leaders that I remember with a similar apology in return.

Stiller says Pope Francis is interested in dialogue with Evangelicals, but he doesn’t want to convert them.

Francis has also shown a great openness to evangelicals. According to his understanding of evangelism asked the Pope replied that he was not interested in converting evangelicals to Catholicism. He wished that people find Jesus in their own community.Instead of a lot of time to spend with the debate about different schools of thought, one should focus on “love to show Jesus”.

That is Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation. You can read the first hand account on Brian’s blog here. Does the pope really not want to convert Evangelicals? Is it okay to just “find Jesus in your own denomination?” As usual with Pope Francis, a private conversation has been reported publicly and now it’s open season for everyone to pick it apart and criticize. Let’s leave that temptation on one side because we don’t actually know the whole conversation and context, nor do we know the Pope’s whole thinking on the subject of ecumenism and evangelization. All we have is Mr Stiller’s report on a conversation. Instead let’s consider the bigger issue of whether Catholics ought to “convert” Evangelicals.

Certainly it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way. We’ve heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.

Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels. First of all, do we really, really not wish to convert Protestants? I pitched this line to my pal David Gustafson (a friend from Bob Jones days) when we were writing our book, Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate.  He said, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!” He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.

He was right about what should be my reasons too. I should not want to convert him just to win an argument and put another notch in my missal, but because I am very happy to have become a Catholic and i sincerely wish that blessing for him and his family.

While it is nice and kind and respectful towards Protestants to say that we do not want to convert them, are we really being honest? Read More

 


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