Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Something very big is happening in the Christian World

Is the split between the RC and Orthodox churches ending?
Something very big is happening in the Christian  world. In a few words...
For the first time in 1,000 years, His Holiness Bartholomew,(with the long white beard in the photo) the "First Among Equals" of the Orthodox Church, and whom we met in Istanbul, attended the inauguration of Pope Francis I in Rome.

This is the FIRST time since the split between the East and the West took place in 1054 that a Bishop of Constantinople will be at the coronation of a Pope in Rome.
(Starting 50 - 40 years ago) Roman Catholics, starting with Vatican II, and then moving through the last four popes have been able to speak as important voices in the world, especially with the media giving them a voice, and showing the huge drawing power they had.

Pope John Paul II was a master at this, and his speaking in 56 languages didn't harm his image, either. Pope Benedict XVI carried on the writing as a masterful teacher. I believe his personal library includes 200,000 volumes and a special building had to be prepared for his books - in many languages.

The emphasis of the RC Church towards the poor, but without losing its spiritual moorings, and also emphasizing the love of nature held by Francis of Assisi, is evident in Francis I, so is his evident humility and pastoral concerns.
On the part of evangelicals, as we 1) emphasized more and more the love of God combined with social action since about 1950, and 2) became less dogmatic about doctrinal issues, and 3) also less likely to criticize the erroneous beliefs of the RC Church towards prayers made to Mary,4)  obvious cases of discrimination towards Protestants in Southern Europe, Latin America and Africa, 5) prayers made to the saints and to Mary ... we began to see in the RC Church "distant brothers and sisters".
As the Untied Church, the Anglican / Episcopal church and other "mainline" denominations moved towards embracing homosexuality, we in the Protestant fold have begun to come together in greater affinity. Like Roman Catholics, most evangelicals tak a stand on Biblical sexual morality. Public debates resulting in  same-sex marriage in many countries, and the very real threats of civil servants actually losing their jobs when refusing  licences for marriages of same sex couples, shows that a Christian of any stripe who wants to obey Scripture is threated with a loss of their job. Thi is our "Secular world".
It is not just Secularism that is threatening Christians. The other major threat comes from the Muslim world, particularly around the Mediterranean Basin. Once the center of Christian faith and the most numerous, this region is losing its population to Paris, Melbourne, New York and other centers. Signs of new affinities within the Christian worlds are many and are found everywhere.

Two weeks ago, for the first time ever, Christians in Egypt formed an organization to embrace all Christians on a equal footing. Until now, the Coptic Christians refused to see other believers as being on the same level as themselves. This has changed with Moursi being the new president and with the amazing downwards spiral (in every sense) in Egypt. (Where I visited in the Valley of the Kings, and there were line ups to get buses, the average Egyptian today is fortunate to have a single customer, a single tourist. Egypt like many other nations around the Mediterranean is in free fall.)
I visited Iraqi Christians who participate in a church of 950 persons in London, Ontario. They are Chaldean Christians, refugees from Baghdad. Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad said goodbye to his church board when they left on a trip to Amman, Jordan. On their way back to Baghdad, all were killed at the same time.
The estimate of 300-400 Christians being killed daily around the world is shocking,. The secular press does not report on this, but gives long columns to homosexuality; same sex marriage; RC stand on contraception; RC issues of clergy abuse; still unresolved issues of the Residential schools; and unending friction between Christian denominations. Persecution against an estimated 200 million people in the world is relatively "unimportant". A single journalist killed on assignment in central Africa makes the news; church congregations killed at gun-point are not "news".
The total number of Christians dying for their faith is about the same as a 747 plane going down every day. Voices of the Martyrs and others are pointing out flash points. I don't see the Islam - Western Civilization divide being easily breached in the next several years.
So, as persecution, threats, killings and Internet be-headings take place, the tendency among Christians will be to see greater strength in unity. Evangelicals, especially are placing less emphasis on doctrinal issues and church government policies, on 'saints' and 'papal infalibility'.
So begins Millennium III, 1000 years after the Great Schism of 1054, which took place in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul!

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