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The Pope’s Appeal for Inter-Religious Unity and Love

In the light of the debates now raging among Christians regarding how to respond to people of other faiths Pope Francis gives us here a short video in which he expresses his heart and personal hope.

Many evangelicals will see this video and conclude something like the following: “Pope Francis believes all people are brothers and sisters and thus he believes all will be saved by God regardless of their life and faith. Therefore, it makes no real difference whether or not the church does evangelization and mission since ALL people who are sincere in their faith will be saved in the end.”

Am I right or am I wrong in the way in the way I state this conclusion?

I think I am right. I know this is how I would have heard this message twenty years ago. So, my next question is this: “Does this make me a pluralist (or liberal) who denies John 14:6 or sees no urgency for sharing the good news and making disciples of Jesus?”

The problem lies in the meaning of all the words and ideas presented here by my comments. The Catholic

Christena Cleveland: A Powerful Message on Unity at Urbana 2015

The recent Urbana 2015 Conference, held in St. Louis, featured a number of great speakers and topics. One of our ACT3 board members, Scott Brill, is on staff with InterVarsity and sent me links to two plenary addresses I found immensely important. I share the first of these two messages in today’s blog post. Scott Brill was also responsible for staffing a Catholic room at Urbana to network with Catholic students who were in attendance. This Catholic presence is new to IVCF and something I wholeheartedly welcome. (Catholic staff have served with IVCF for some years now, though their number is still quite small.) Pray for many evangelical mission agencies who now work openly with Catholics and do not try to “convert” students to evangelicalism but to Christ in humble faith. This is a risky strategy and presents challenges when donors do not like this direction. ACT3 not only openly supports this direction but seeks to serve it, and ministries who are doing this, wherever possible.

Dr. Christena Cleveland, author of a wonderful book titled Disunity in Christ. She is a social psychologist with a hopeful passion for

The Third Annual Catholic-Evangelical Conversation

“From September 1st to the 5th, the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein Illinois was the site for the Third Annual Evangelical and Catholic Conversation.  Along with the University, the conversation is sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and ACT-3, a network of relational partnerships between churches, missions and leaders in missional ecumenism.  Father Thomas A. Baima, Dr. John Armstrong, Dr. Craig Higgins and Pastor Norberto Saracco were the principal organizers.  Participants include Catholics and Evangelicals from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Guatemala, England, South Korea and Argentina.  They discussed Pope Francis’ call for dialogue, fraternity and action which he lays out in Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) and heard two presentations.  Fr. Thomas Baima delivered the keynote address on the biblical basis for a common understanding of the Church.  Dr. Craig Higgins presented a response. Additionally, Dr. John Armstrong and Pastor Norberto Saracco led the group in discussing experiences of positive relations between Evangelicals and Catholics in their various countries.”

“This project is part of a larger effort called “missional ecumenism.”  This effort operates alongside of the official dialogues

The Week That Dramatically Altered the Culture Conflict and the Future of the Church

th-1Response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has been all over the map, to say the least. We have seen some amazing celebrations and all the expected denunciations from many Christians. At First Baptist Church in Dallas the pulpit was adorned with red, white and blue last weekend. The pastor called the ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.” Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, said the court had acted in a way that represented “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion.” The White House, in contrast, was bathed in the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. Many other churches, mostly Protestant mainline congregations, called attention to the decision with prayer and joy.

The pastor at First Baptist in Dallas said he was not discouraged at all. He added, “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.” Now, if ever there was a line I personally agreed

A Liberal Confession that Conservatives Can Affirm

Lescalleet (Dave)Today’s Guest Blogger: Dr. David Lescalleet

There was an interesting recent editorial on dailybeast.com entitled:  Why I’m coming out as a Christian.  Columnist Ana Marie Cox who has written for a number of periodicals and has quite the following on twitter (1.3 million and counting) wrote the article.  I heard about it today when Ms. Cox appeared on the cable morning show Morning Joe on MSNBC and talked about the reasons she chose to ‘come out’ of the religious closet.  A week ago the news cycle had picked up on a comment made by Governor Scott Walker who was questioning President Obama’s Christian faith.  Ms. Cox, a liberal commentator and obvious supporter of President Obama, opined if the President wasn’t a Christian than what did that make her?  In her television interview this morning she did a decent enough job in trying to explain her own Christianity (enough for me to hunt her article down anyway and read it for myself), and what I found was a testimonial mixture of both good and bad.  I don’t mean

An ACT3 Interview with Dr. Norberto Saracco

Dr. Norberto Saracco is the senior pastor of a very large church in Buenos Aires. He is also the president of a seminary with 8,000 students. Norberto has also been actively involved in the Lausanne Movement for many years. Norberto and I met through the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation, which I have led for several years now. He has attended both of our gatherings in Mundelein, both in 2013 and 2014.

We recently put the video of this year’s public meeting of this gathering on our ACT3 page. It is over 100 minutes long and is worth watching. Besides Norberto you will see and hear Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Thomas Baima and me. Dialogue from each of us, and the audience, follows.

When Norberto was in Mundelein in September ACT3 sat down with him for a personal interview. Today I share this interview for the first time. Since Norberto is a close, personal friend of Pope Francis, having worked with him in evangelism and prayer in Argentina for a decade, you will find his comments most interesting. You will also see why I am so thrilled with this

The Most Memorable Reformation Sunday in My Life

October 26, 2014, was a day that dawned with profound joy in my soul. I shall never forget it as long as I live. It began with personal morning prayer in a guest home in Montreal. I was in this great city to do my first Gospel Call mission with 47a4ce11b3127cce985487b0cadb00000015102BcM2zJq0ZQFr. Thomas Ryan, CSP. Tom directs the ministry of ecumenism for the Paulists and works out of their Washington, D.C. office. He invited me in 2013 to join him as his fellow team member/missioner for a four-day event that we hope to do at least three times per year in various parts of North America. Tom did his first Gospel Call mission almost twenty-five years ago in Canada. He has had three Protestant partners before me. I will share more about the mission this week but today I’d like to tell you my story of this unforgettable day, October 26.

After breakfast I went to St. Luke Catholic Church in Montreal. In the first Mass of the Lord’s Day I was invited to give the homily.

Christian Unity Week @ Judson University, Part Two

IMG_4165On Wednesday, October 8, I introduced Fr. Thomas Baima to the Judson University community. I do not know if Judson has ever had a Roman Catholic priest speak as a primary preacher in their chapel but on this gorgeous fall day it happened. The anticipation and prayer was palpable to me. A lot had gone into this service behind the scenes, including dialogue over many months, a meal that we all shared together, and much planning about details and liturgy. Music was provided by my friend Aaron Niequist as well. Aaron is a fellow-traveler and shared in the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation in September.

This particular chapel began on a very sad note. A great trial touching the entire Judson family was shared with the students at the beginning. But we proceeded by asking God to meet with us in our prayers and worship. Fr. Baima ended by offering a rich and pastoral response on behalf of the Judson community through his closing prayer.

Many have said to me, for an entire lifetime, “I have never heard a Catholic priest

Same-Sex Marriage Dividing a Local Parish

On the same day that I read the Associated Press report that I referenced yesterday regarding the new Pew Research about same-sex marriage there was another report from Great Falls, Montana. This story struck me as one filled with profound pain and difficulty.

Church PictureRoman Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings conducted a meeting with about 300 parishioners from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown on Saturday, September 20. There is a huge controversy inside the St. Leo congregation. Fr. Samuel Spiering, the priest at St. Leo’s, has decided to prohibit a gay couple from receiving the Eucharist unless they take three steps. First, they must legally divorce. Second, they must live separately. And third, they must write a statement affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. The 300 people from the parish who met with their bishop were said to be evenly divided about the counsel of their priest. (Note: This is not an urban center where large numbers of gays might live in communities.)

The same-sex couple, in

Gospel Call – A Unique Event for Local Congregations

unity_gospel_callMy friend Fr. Tom Ryan, C.S.P, partners with me in helping to facilitate an event three times each year that is co-sponsored by three or more local congregations in a town or city in the U.S. or Canada. The event is offered in both two-day and four-day versions. Please see this agenda outline for more information about the schedule, topics, and agenda offered in each version.

Available dates for 2015: 
January 18-21
May 30-June 3
November 15-18

– Read feedback from Gospel Call participants

Objectives:

  • Provide Christian believers with an opportunity to discover, experience, and express our unity in Christ. The overarching objective of this event is to respond to the Gospel call to reconciliation with God and one another. Whole congregations of believers from different traditions are invited to experience afresh our unity in Christ through worship, spiritual growth, and mission.
  • Deepen Christians’ sense of solidarity with one another. By engaging together in an experience of prayer, faith-sharing, and fellowship over four days, people come to know one another better and perceive each other as belonging to the same body of Christ. By providing people with
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