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What Luther Says

Even Stranger Fire: Pope Francis Presses Pentecostals For Unity

Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Pope Francis walk into a bar...

Ok, it wasn't a bar, but it's no joke that these three Christian apostates came together last month to pursue the same goal -- unity in the faith through unity in the church.

The story is certainly eyebrow raising news for me today and it's suspiciously timely too. Many of you are well aware of Chris Rosebrough's work on Fighting For The Faith exposing Steven Furtick's cult at his Elevation Church as images of children's coloring books and comics stressing none other than "unity" have been at the forefront of the sickening revelations. Furtick has also shown up on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) in recent weeks -- or the very same broadcasting network that heavily promotes false teacher Kenneth Copeland too!

And you thought the recent "Strange Fire Conference" and its aftermath was something, huh? Well, get ready, because now the new paradigm is for the same Pentecostal Church to get unprecedented support from the Roman Catholic Church.

Yes, it seems Pope Francis has been busy pressing Pentecostals to join the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of "unity" in the faith.

In Unusual Video, Pope Speaks of His Longing For Christian Unity (With Evangelicals)

In an unusual video message, recorded on an iPhone by a Pentecostal pastor Pope Francis knew in Argentina, the pope says all Christians share blame for their divisions, speaks of his "longing" for their unity and insists that God will bring the miracle of Christian unity to completion.

"Pray to the Lord that he will unite us all," the pope tells a group of Pentecostals meeting in the United States. "Let's move forward, we are brothers; let us give each other that spiritual embrace and allow the Lord to complete the work he has begun. Because this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun."

In the video, posted on YouTube and never released by the Vatican, the pope quotes a character from a novel by Alessandro Manzoni; the character says, "'I have never found that the Lord began a miracle without finishing it well.' He will finish well this miracle of unity," the pope added.

The Vatican did not release any details when it announced Jan. 14 that Pope Francis had met with "Anthony Palmer, bishop and international ecumenical officer for the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches," a group that is not affiliated with the Anglican Communion.

The video, which Palmer said he took with his iPhone, begins in English with the pope apologizing that he will have to switch to Italian, although mostly, he said, he would speak from the heart, which is "a more simple, more authentic language."
Addressing Palmer as "my brother, a bishop-brother" and saying they had "been friends for years," the pope offered what he said were greetings "both joyful and full of longing" to participants in a forthcoming meeting of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a Pentecostal group that sponsors large prayer gatherings around the world.

The joy, the pope said, comes from knowing that "the Lord is working all over the whole world."

But he said he is full of longing because Christians are still separated, "separated because of sin, our sins."

"Who is at fault?" he asked. "All of us are, we are all sinners. There is only one who is just and that is the Lord."

Pope Francis said he longs for the day when "this separation would end and there would be communion."

"Let's allow our longing to increase so that it propels us to find each other, embrace each other and to praise Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history," the pope said.

The video begins with Palmer telling a Pentecostal gathering about the importance of Christian unity for preaching salvation in Christ to the world.

Palmer said that the Catholic-Protestant divisions have had no reason to exist since the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The agreement recognized that "by grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."

"Brothers and sisters, Luther's protest is over," Palmer told his audience. "Is yours?"
"We are not protesting the doctrine of salvation (taught) by the Catholic Church anymore," he said. "We now preach the same Gospel."

The Catholic Church has celebrated the agreement on justification and other ecumenical agreements, while insisting that further progress must be made to resolve other differences before there is full unity and sacramental sharing. Those differences include how different Christians view the sacraments and how they see the role of the papacy.

Well, well, well! I suppose we should start giving every apostate, blasphemer, and heretic a spiritual hug then, shouldn't we?

What should we make of this? I know what I'm thinking, but what about you?

Pope Francis' comments came after Bishop Tony Palmer delivered a speech to Kenneth Copeland Ministries about the importance of Christian unity for preaching salvation in Christ to the world.

Hopefully, I don't have to tell you anything about the heretical teachings of Kenneth Copeland (or the Roman Catholic Church for that matter), but this news is interesting in that it signals an unprecedented paradigm shift (at least, from my humble perspective).

I couldn't have said it any better than one person who commented online in response to this story...

QUOTE: "Let's allow our longing to increase so that it propels us to find each other..."

TRANSLATION: Let's follow emotions rather than having a honest debate on objective truth in God's Word.

There can be no unity...apart from truth. NO SALE!!!

That's exactly right (Ephesians 4:1-16).

But what about some other notable comments that were made?

"Brothers and sisters, Luther's protest is over. Is yours?"

*- Tony Palmer

Forgive me, but those sound like fightin' words to me. Then again, I am a Confessional Lutheran myself so I'm probably a little biased. Sorry, but I will not stop protesting false doctrine peddled by false teachers as Biblical truth just for the sake of get-alongism and unity. Not gonna happen!

Listen to the main video around the 40:00 mark as Kenneth Copeland and the congregants join in prayer for Pope Francis too! Then, watch as Anthony Palmer videotapes a return message to Pope Francis from Kenneth Copeland himself.

This sudden shift toward ecumenism is head-scratching because Kenneth Copeland even calls him "Sir" and then says he's available to come to the Vatican. What in the world is going on here!?!

As for their attempt to use the "Joint Declaration On The Doctrine of Justification" between Catholics and Lutherans to their advantage, I may be a new Confessional Lutheran myself, but my common understanding is that it was an apostate Lutheran World Federation that brokered that agreement.

I believe it was Rev. Paul McCain who once wrote that, "no organization in the world has done more in the past fifty years to deconstruct genuine Lutheranism than the Lutheran World Federation."

It has tolerated, even encouraged, a loose and unfaithful understanding of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, all the while ostensibly claiming a certain identity with them. The predecessor bodies that formed the Lutheran World Federation would not reject and throw out false teachers such as Rudolph Bultmann who worked to “demythologize” the New Testament, casting doubt on the words and deeds of Jesus. To this day the Lutheran World Federation pays mere lip service to the ancient Christian creeds, but tolerates in its midst churches whose pastors and theologians doubt, and even very brazenly and openly deny the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, casting doubt on the miracles of Jesus, His virgin birth, His bodily resurrection, and so forth! LWF member organizations have embraced the anti-Apostolic and anti-Scriptural practice of the ordination of women, abortion. The large Lutheran state churches are offering same-sex marriages. The LWF, despite its claim that it is Lutheran, does not even insist on absolutely faithfulness to the most basic of all the Lutheran confessions, Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. The LWF, and most of its member churches, compromised and walked away from the Lutheran insistence on the Lord’s Supper when it entered into all manners of “full communion” with Reformed churches that continue to this day to deny that the bread and wine in the Holy Communion are in fact the body and blood of Christ. The LWF leadership structure has embraced a compromise of the very heart of the Gospel itself with Rome, when it accepted the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” in which it allowed Rome to continue its formal anathema of the Biblical doctrine that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from any works.

If you think that was "too harsh" or that I'm being "overly critical" here myself, then please prayerfully consider the piece titled "A Betrayal of The Gospel: The Joint Declaration On The Doctrine of Justification" by Rev. Paul McCain for all the pertinent details before you weigh in yourself.

Here's a brief summary to help save you some time...

When, or if, you hear any Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, claim that the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church have reconciled their differences on the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone this is simply untrue. It is a lie. A complete and total fabrication.

Clearly, closer scrutiny reveals that there's much more going on here than is being presented to the general public on the surface. I just can't seem to put my finger on it yet although I do know what it will always come back to.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

For instance, a closer look into this "Bishop Tony Palmer" reveals much.

In fact, Father Dwight Longenecker investigated the Anglican Bishop friend of Pope Francis' who brought the Pope's message to the gathering of charismatic Protestants.

Fr. Longenecker writes...

First of all we have to ask who “Bishop” Tony Palmer is. He is billed as a bishop in the Anglican Episcopal Communion. However, in an online search I couldn’t find such a body. This webpage lists the well over one hundred Anglican breakaway churches worldwide. For readers who do not know what an Anglican breakaway church is–it is a group of Christians who, for some reason or another, have split away from the official Worldwide Anglican Communion which has the Archbishop of Canterbury as its head. There is an Anglican Episcopal Church in the USA, and here is the webpage of the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Europe. If this is the organization that Bishop Palmer belongs to, then it is one of the many Anglican schism groups. Mr Palmer is also listed as a leading member of “EuroChurch” which seems to be a confederation of Protestant Evangelical leaders working in Europe.

At the EuroChurch page it says Mr Palmer is a member of the Anglican Episcopal Church of the CEEC (Celtic Anglican Tradition). CEEC stands for Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. The CEEC website is here and it seems this Anglican body accepts women as priests. Is this the CEEC that Mr Palmer belongs to or is it another one of the many Anglican styled groups, and what is the “Celtic Anglican Tradition” The CEEC website says they “stand in the Celtic and Anglican traditions.”

If by “Celtic” they mean that they affirm Celtic spirituality there would be nothing wrong with that, but I suspect they have embraced a bogus historical theory that has been growing in popularity in Anglican circles: this is the idea that there is a pure strand of British Christianity which dates right back to the Roman times when Coptic Christians brought Christianity to the British Isles along with Joseph of Arimathea who came to Glastonbury as a missionary. This Anglican legend has been promoted because they then claim that “from the beginning there was a pure British church that was not tainted by Roman corruption. This British Celtic Church existed in an autonomous way separate from Rome until the Synod of Whitby where Rome imposed her authority on this church. Therefore Anglicanism continues that same ancient strand of Christianity free from the dominance of Rome. The whole theory is completely and crazily bogus–rather like British Israelitism or the Mormon claim that the native Americans were the lost tribes. You can read my demolition of the loopy theory in an article here that I wrote for Catholic Answers some years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that the pope sent a heartwarming message of love to the Pentecostals, and I’m happy that he is friends with Tony Palmer, but we can’t be too starry eyed or sentimental about this.

Tony Palmer is clearly from one of these enthusiastic (and usually conservative and for the most part theologically orthodox) schism groups. If he is then I have a novel and potentially exciting proposal for him. If he is an Anglican bishop of sorts, and if he truly desires unity with the Holy Father, then he should join the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Bishop Palmer lives for a good bit of the year in Wiltshire in England. Why don’t he and his fellow clergy and people in the Anglican Episcopal Church join the Ordinariate?

Such a step would strengthen his claims to desire unity. It would also provide encouragement and a bridge for other schismatic Anglicans to come into full, corporate and recognizable unity with the Bishop of Rome in a way that they can still exercise their ministry and affirm their Anglican traditions.

See what I mean?

No, I wouldn't say that "heaven is thrilled over this" as some are claiming, because doctrine does matter to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and while unity in the faith is important it's unity in the true faith that matters most (just like we've been trying to point out for weeks now).

There's really so much more I could write in response to this, but for now let's just wrap things up with some words on the "unity of the church" by Johann Gerhard.

Whether the union of members with each other and with their head is a mark of the Church.

§ 231. The first section. Is the union of members with each other and with their head a proper and genuine mark of the Church? We respond. (1) We confess that the Church is one on the basis of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The reasons for this unity we explained earlier (§ 34), among which the chief is the unity of faith and doctrine (Ephesians 4:5).

(2) Therefore unity per se is not a mark of the Church. Rather, it must be connected with faith and doctrine, Ephesians 4:5: “One Lord, one faith;” v. 13: “. . . until we all attain to the unity of faith” (Athanasius, Letter ad Antioch.). “Only that is the true concord which is of faith. Without that, it is the best dissent; the most destructive concord,” as Gregory Nazianzen writes (Orat. 1, de pace).

(3) Not just any unity of faith and doctrine is a mark of the Church, but only the unity of true faith and doctrine, that is, of prophetic and apostolic doctrine, for that alone is of immovable and perpetual truth. Therefore the unity of faith that is a mark of the Church must be based on one foundation of doctrine: the apostolic doctrine. Accordingly, the Church is said to be “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles” (Ephesians 2:20). It is said about the heavenly Jerusalem that “its wall has twelve foundations and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”( Revelation 21:14). Accordingly, in Zechariah 8:19 “truth and peace” are joined.

In fact, truth is set ahead of peace so that we may understand that God approves of only that peace, concord, and unity which enjoys the foundation and bond of truth. John 8:31: “If you remain in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” John 17:21: “That they may be one in Us.”

(4) Although the true Church is one and its true members agree in one religion, yet we cannot infer from this that, wherever there is unity and agreement in religion, there suddenly is the true, apostolic Church. You see, there are two kinds of unity, as Thomas teaches (on Ephesians 4, lect. 1): “One is good, the other is bad. One is of spirit, the other of flesh.” “The unity of piety is to believe correctly; the unity of wickedness is to believe wrongly,” as Ambrose says somewhere. As God’s Church is one, so the devil’s Babylon is one. Christ says, Matthew 12:[26]: “If Satan is divided against himself, how then will his kingdom stand?” There was unity among those who demanded the making of the golden calf (Exodus 32). All the priests of Baal were unanimous in opposing Elijah and Micah. At the time of Jeremiah all the people were unanimous in opposing the true worship of God. Christ was condemned to death by the common counsel of the priests and elders and with the assent of the entire people. The entire city of Ephesus rose up against Paul. After Christ’s ascension, Jews and gentiles fought against Christ’s Church. Although heretics may differ from each other, yet they are agreed on one heresy. In Revelation 13:16 we have this prophecy about the Antichrist: “It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave to be marked on the right hand.” The Jesuit Ribera comments on this passage: “The apostle means the infinite number of those who will be adherents of the Antichrist” (surely in harmony and peace). All this shows that not just any unity but the unity of faith and doctrine, and not any unity in faith and doctrine but the unity in the true apostolic doctrine and in the truly catholic faith is a mark of the Church.

(5) The statements of the ancients belong here, in which they teach that we must evaluate unity on the basis of the truth of faith. Cyprian (De unit. ecclesiae) says: “The Church is one just as the light of the sun is one, though the sun has many rays; just as a tree is one, though it has many branches; just as a spring is one, though it has many streams. Unity is preserved in the origin.” Here he takes the origin to mean Christ and the doctrine of Christ. ** The pagans once reproached Christians with the charge that “unity of faith does not flourish among them.” Augustine, De ovibus, c. 15: “Only this has remained for those” (evil-speakers) “to say against us: ‘Why do you not agree among yourselves?’ The pagan heathen who have remained, having nothing to say against the name of Christ, reproach the Christians with the disagreement of Christians.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromat., bk. 7: “This, then, is the first thing they cite against us; they say that one ought not believe because of the disagreement of the sects [haereses], for the truth is slowed and deferred when some people set up some dogmas and others establish other dogmas. To them we say that there have been more sects among you Jews and among you philosophers who were held in the highest esteem among the Greeks,” etc. **

When the Arian Auxentius boasted about the unity of the Arians, Hilary gave him this answer (at the beginning of Contra Auxent.): “Indeed, the name of peace is lovely and the idea of unity is beautiful, but who doubts that only the unity of the Church and of the Gospels is the peace of Christ?” Afterwards he adds: “The ministers of the Antichrist boast of their peace, that is, of the unity of their wickedness, behaving not as the bishops of Christ but as priests of the Antichrist.” Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 1, de pace: “It is better for a disagreement to arise for the sake of piety than to have a corrupt concord.” Jerome writes (Letter ad Theophilum, against the errors of John of Jerusalem, vol. 2, p. 185): “We, too, want peace, but the peace of Christ, true peace, peace without hostilities, peace in which war is not covered, peace which does not subject people as foes but joins them as friends.” When Augustine (domin. 2. post octavas paschae de pace et unitate, Sermon 1) had diligently recommended the pursuit of peace, he added: “But this peace is to be guarded with good people and those who keep the commandments of God, not with the hostile and wicked, who have peace among themselves in their sins. The peace of Christ is beneficial for eternal salvation. The peace which is in the devil leads to eternal destruction. We must always have peace with the good and war with the vices, since the evils of wicked men should be hated,” etc. Hugh, De claustr. anim., bk. 3, c. 9: “Another peace is considered, that of the wicked and of this world. Another is pretended, that of the devil and of heretics. Another is commanded, namely, that we not fight against heretics.”

Have we learned anything?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, unity at the expense of truth is not Biblical.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, you might discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. I decided to leave those published posts up only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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