By Rick Wiles | June 27, 2014
Two prominent Fort Worth-based Christian ministers led a delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders to Rome to meet privately with Pope Francis.
James and Betty Robison, co-hosts of the Life Today television program, and Kenneth Copeland, co-host of Believer’s Voice of Victory, met the Roman Pontiff at the Vatican on Tuesday. The meeting lasted almost three hours and included a private luncheon with Pope Francis.
Mr. Robison told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “This meeting was a miracle…. This is something God has done. God wants his arms around the world. And he wants Christians to put his arms around the world by working together.”
In a written statement, Mr. Robison said he believes “the prayers of earnest Christians helped lead to the choice of Pope Francis.” He described Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine Archbishop chosen as Pope, as “a humble man…filled with such love for the poor, downtrodden…”
In addition to Mrs. Betty Robison, the high-profile Protestant delegation included Kenneth Copeland, co-founder of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Newark, TX; Reverend Geoff Tunnicliff, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance; Rev. Brian Stiller and Rev. Thomas Schirrmacher, also from the World Evangelical Alliance; and Rev. John Arnott and his wife, Carol, co-founders of Partners for Harvest ministries in Toronto, Canada. Gloria Copeland did not travel to Rome because of a previously scheduled commitment.
The ecumenical meeting in Rome was organized by Episcopal Bishop Tony Palmer. Rev. Palmer is an ordained bishop in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, a break-away alliance of charismatic Anglican-Episcopal churches. Bishop Palmer is also the Director of The Ark Community, an international interdenominational Convergent Church online community, and is a member of the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.
Bishop Palmer developed a friendship with Pope Francis when the future Roman Pontiff was a Catholic official in Argentina. Prior to becoming a CEEC bishop, Rev. Palmer was the director of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ office in South Africa. He is married to an Italian Roman Catholic woman. He later moved to Italy and began working to reconcile Roman Catholics and Protestants. Kenneth Copeland Ministries was one of Mr. Palmer’s first financial contributors over 10 years ago in support of his ecumenical work in Italy.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis called Bishop Palmer to invite him to his residence in Vatican City. During the meeting, Bishop Palmer suggested that the Pope record a personal greeting on Mr. Palmer’s iPhone to be delivered to Kenneth Copeland. Mr. Copeland showed the Papal video greeting to a conference of Protestant ministers who were meeting at Mr. Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church near Fort Worth, TX. In the video, Pope Francis expressed his desire for Christian unity with Protestants.
Later, James Robison telecasted the video on his daily TV program, Life Today. “The pope, in the video, expressed a desire for Protestants and Catholics to become what Jesus prayed for — that Christians would become family and not be divided,” Mr. Robison said the response to the video was very positive, and that Pope Francis asked Bishop Palmer whether a meeting could be arranged with Evangelical Protestants seeking Christian unity in the world.
In his written statement released after the Papal meeting, Mr. Robison said he was “blessed to be part of perhaps an unprecedented moment between evangelicals and the Catholic Pope.” He described the Protestant delegation’s private meeting with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church as “an intimate circle of prayerful discussion and lunch to discuss not only seeing Jesus’ prayer answered, but that every believer would become a bold, joy-filled witnesses for Christ.
Aware that the meeting with the Pope will be troublesome among staunch Protestants, Mr. Robison said he and the other visiting Evangelical Christian leaders talked about diversity and their belief that Roman Catholics and Protestants could work together without compromising their beliefs.
Mr. Robison, whose ministry digs water wells and supplies food for impoverished people in third-world nations, recounted that he was christened as a fatherless boy in an Episcopal Church. As an adult, he joined the Southern Baptist Church. In the 1980s, he became one of the first prominent Southern Baptist ministers to openly proclaim he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
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