The yearly Charismatic Leaders Fellowship met at Oral Roberts University from February 22nd to the 25th. This group has functioned as a discerning and analytical element of the Charismatic Renewal. In the past, for instance, the group dealt with such issues as the mass deliverance meetings that were fashionable in the 1970s, and the discipleship controversy.
This year the accent was on Church unity and the growing ecumenical dialogue across churches and denominations. J. C. Church, pastor of Victory Church in Columbia SC, began the conference with a presentation about America’s cultural decline and the Church’s responsibility to form a united front to reverse this trend before God’s judgement falls on the nation.
Next, the African American evangelist and pastor, Brondon Mathis, brought a hopeful message about revival through round the clock prayer meetings. He described how his church, inspired by the International House of Prayer pattern, has brought revival and a radical decline of crime, to Columbus, Ohio.
Then Matteo Calisi, a prominent Catholic Charismatic layman from Italy and a person who regularly graces CLF meetings, reported on the ongoing breakthroughs in Pentecostal-Roman Catholic dialogue and reconciliation. Calisi is especially enthusiastic about Pope Francis’ ecumenism, for instance, his willingness to ask forgiveness for past Catholic persecution of Pentecostals and other Protestants. Pope Francis recently asked forgiveness from the Calvinists in France, the Hussites of Austria and the Check Republic, and Italian Pentecostals for their suffering and persecution from Catholics. Some readers would be aware of Calvinist and Hussite persecution, but few would know that the Italian Pentecostals suffered grievously under the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. Sadly, the Catholic Church refused to speak a single word of protest – unlike its continuous attempts to shelter the Jews.
In fact, as the Rev. Calisi reports, Pentecostal-Roman Catholic relations are at an all-time high. The Pope has directed that Catholic evangelization be suspended towards Protestant Believers, but rather focus on the unchurched. As Calisi added more details of the ongoing Catholic-Pentecostal reconciliation, I recalled how different all this is from when I was a boy in Catholic school – we thought all Protestants were doomed to hell – and they returned the favor!
After this upbeat presentation we had a jarring counter-point given to us by Fr. Timothy Cremeens, an American Orthodox priest and dean at the Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Fr. Cremeens is a person well connected with the Greek, Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches in America and overseas. He bluntly stated that Orthodox-Roman Catholic or Orthodox–Protestant dialogue of any sort will go nowhere. The recent meeting of the Russian Orthodox primate with Pope Francs in Cuba was all political show and no substance.