Many of you know by now of the sudden death of Bishop Tony Palmer last Sunday (July 20). This news was stunning to so many of us who knew a little about this wonderful, Spirit-filled, man. I had just begun to develop a friendship for Christian unity with Tony. Though we never met in person we had “discovered” one another and he recently received a copy of my book, Your Church Is Too Small (Zondervan, 2010). We exchanged several different messages and planned on meeting as soon as possible. We shared mutual friendships. I believed God had raised this man up very specifically to build a bridge of unity between evangelicals, charismatics and Catholics through deep friendship with Pope Francis.
I personally chair the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation. (Our next private meeting is September 11-13 @ Mundelein Seminary. A public meeting will be held on the evening of September 11 and information is available on our website.) This leadership role in particular led me to reach out to Tony with great personal interest to understand what the Lord was doing in his life. Some of his friends are my friends. I wrote several blogs about his being used to open doors to the Vatican. Now Tony is gone from us, present with the Lord! I do not understand why these tragedies happen. I especially grieve for Tony’s wife and three children. Tony, a father of pre-adult children with an amazing ability to bring us together, is now gone from us. God knows why. We leave reasons to his wise counsel.
Meanwhile I humbly ask that you pray for Tony’s family as they grieve and commit his remains to the earth this week. Tony Palmer, the worker, is done with his work. But the larger work must go on as we who work for global unity follow Tony’s wonderfully human example. May God bless the life and work of Bishop Tony Palmer and all who love him and miss him now so deeply.
Tony seems to have been taken from us far too soon. All we can say at this point is what we should always say: “Blessed be the name of the Lord who reigns!”
Below is one of the last personal notes that Tony sent to his friends and supporters. Reading it now is deeply moving and fills my eyes with tears today.
Dear Friends & Companions and Bishops of The CEEC,
THANK YOU for your prayers for our historic meeting with Pope Francis on June 24, 2014. It was a huge success. And all because it was done not by might nor by strength but by the Spirit of God. This current ‘Miracle of Unity’ is continuing with it’s own life. All of us, including Pope Francis were astounded by the fact that our Evangelical delegation represented 80-90% of the World’s Evangelical Christians.
Pope Francis said, ‘This could ONLY be by the Holy Spirit, and we must continue to follow His leading’.
Our primary purpose for facilitating such a meeting was to introduce Pope Francis to those who responded positively to the Video message he and I made back during my January papal Audience, which ‘leaked’ (‘by the Holy Spirit’, said Pope Francis) onto YouTube. Here’s a link to it on our Community website: http://thearkcommunity.org. We were the Brothers of Joseph going to Egypt looking for Bread but finding something more than Bread – we found our Brother we thought we’d lost..!
Secondly – Together our delegation acknowledged our ‘Protest’ was over and requested Pope Francis to offer some concrete steps forward which would give us the occasion to publicly declare our unity both in Faith (saved by Grace, not works) and in common Mission (Evangelise and minister to the world together). Our intention was presented to him and we now wait for him to show us the next step forward towards the fulfilment of Jesus’ Prayer in Jn. 17:21.
We are certainly living in historic times, and June 24, 2014, we all wrote a New Page for a New Day in His-Story book. Thank you for all your Prayers and Financial partnership – it is working and we are building Jesus’ dream!
Many of you have asked us for the names in the recent Papal Delegation for Unity photo we sent out this morning. Five Christian Organisations were represented, they were:
1. Rev. Kenneth Copeland (Kenneth Copeland Ministries)
2. Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe (World Evangelical Alliance)
3. Rev. James and Mrs. Betty Robison (Life Outreach Int.)
4. Rev. John and Mrs. Carol Arnott (Partners in Harvest)
5. Rt. Rev. Anthony Palmer (The Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches)
1. Carol Arnott
2. John Arnott
3. Brian Stiller
4. Kenneth Copeland
5. Pope Francis
6. Thomas Schirrmacher
7. Geoff Tunnicliffe
8. James Robison
9. Betty Robison
10. Tony Palmer
This information is now public and you are free to share it with your networks and Friends etc. Please honour the spirit in which this meeting was done in your communication of it… and again THANK YOU for all YOU did to make this a success.