Luke Coppen thinks the Pope is reaching out to unify 'Evangelicals' with the Catholic church. Imagine this were to happen: it would be the largest re-alignment in Western Christianity since 1517. In 2015 it seems unimaginable (e.g. because of the huge lack of unity among Evangelicals themselves). But the world is changing fast. It is not unimaginable that the rise of Islam's global influence will focus the minds and hearts of Christians. In 2065, might we find we drag our feet no longer towards a re-marriage of the strands of Western Christianity?
Raymond de Souza, complimenting Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and now his own church on their 'green' credentials, reads into these credentials a new evangelization strategy.
"The key to understanding the environmental push is the Holy Father’s priority on the Church in mission. If the Church goes green, it is to improve the cultural climate for evangelisation. In this, Pope Francis’s pastoral strategy is to join an effort that has been underway for decades in both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism."Now I absolutely get the point in the paragraph above when aligned with a point in the paragraph below, that a key to evangelization is for the church to keep close to the culture of the people it wishes to reach with the gospel:
"In the 1980s and early 1990s, as it became clear in both Constantinople and Canterbury that their respective communions were becoming increasingly marginal players in their own cultures, a conscious decision was taken to move environmental issues to the forefront of their public witness."But, as an Anglican, I am not at all sure that we (via Canterbury) are capable of saying that we are increasingly distant from our own cultures, what will we do, I know let's choose environmentalism as an issue which will lead to re-connection. My strongest suspicion is that we simply saw environmental degradation and decided that we ought as biblical people to do something about it.
Nevertheless, there is some thing to reflect on here as Laudato Si makes waves around the world. If we want the gospel to be heard, what 'climate of listening' are the churches creating (or damaging) as we go about our public, corporate witness?
Back to Coppen's article. If there really is a document in the Pope's office which speaks of Catholics and Evangelicals "united in mission because we are declaring the same Gospel" then that goes to the heart of Christian unity: our message and our mission based on that message.
If this understanding of the gospel is centred on Jesus, then we may be hopeful of greater unity in the years ahead. I was particularly heartened to read this in the Coppen article:
"Francis is said to have told an Evangelical leader recently: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community. Let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”"
It is not that hard, is it?