Unity and Reconciliation Day
On September 20 we had a day together with Christian leaders from all over the world at Catch The Fire – Toronto, Canada, who have a heart for Unity and Reconciliation. Professor Matteo Calisi, president of the Catholic Fraternity, who is an important leader in the Catholic charismatic movement and holds a Vatican office, brought a delegation including Archbishop Sean Larkin and Bishop Tony Palmer from the Anglican tradition and other leaders from many different denominations, in what I would describe in two words, “Convergence” and “Synergism”.
Matteo and his team stayed for the annual Catch The Fire conference as guests, thanks to the Founders and Presidents of Catch The Fire (CTF), John and Carol Arnott, along with Steve and Sandra Long, Duncan and Kate Smith and CTF staff. Matteo addressed the CTF conference with the translational help of Bishop Tony Palmer, of the Anglican tradition, on the heart of the foundational understanding of signs and wonders and how it is lived out by faith amongst Roman Catholics. Matteo highlighted biblical references, the acts and practices of early fathers, as well as recent stories of miracles. He referenced Father Rick Thomas, S.J.’s multiplication of food on Christmas day in the garbage dump of Juarez, Mexico (see video www.fatherrickthomas.com/videos/story-of-the-christmas-miracle ).
Interestingly enough, the same day Matteo was speaking at the conference, Pope Benedict XVI, the first Pope to ever publicly visit Martin Luther’s monastery, made the following declarations. These are mentioned in the following article, taken from Zenit (The world seen from Rome) and translated by Google into English:
THE POPE IN GERMANY, THE DIALOGUE WITH THE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS
Visiting the monastery of Martin Luther
BERLIN, Thursday, September 22, 2011 (ZENIT.org). Benedict XVI’s visit seeks to give impetus to dialogue between evangelical Christians and Catholics joined because they witness to the world their faith in Christ.
For this reason, the Pontiff explained to reporters accompanying him on the Alitalia flight that brought him to Berlin, that he has happily accepted the invitation to visit the ancient monastery of Martin Luther in Erfurt.
By programming this apostolic pilgrimage, the third in his homeland, decided “that the evangelical ecumenism with our friends should be a strong point and a central point of this trip,” he revealed.
“In an age of secularism,” Evangelicals and Catholics “have a mission to make present God’s message, the message of Christ.” The search for unity between Catholics and evangelicals, “even if they remain big problems”, “is essential in this historical moment,” he said. “We are united and show the world that this unity is essential and deepen this historic moment.” “I am so very grateful to our friends, brothers and sisters, Protestants, which made a very significant sign in the meeting in the monastery where Luther began his theological journey, the prayer in the church where he was ordained priest and talk whole of our responsibility as Christians in this time, “confessed the Bishop of Rome.
“I am very happy to be able to share in this fundamental unity, that we are brothers and sisters and work together for the good of humanity, proclaiming the good news of Christ, the God who cares for humanity and speaks to us.”
Today, within the heart of the church at large, there appears to be a movement towards our togetherness, being reconciled to God and man and being united to one another. What is happening? The Bride of Christ (the church) is being adorned for the wedding which includes Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox and all Christian churches/denominations, worldwide. Jesus the Bridegroom is coming back for ONE bride.
“Convergence” and “Synergism” are not biblical words but biblical concepts. Convergence is, simply speaking, the act of moving towards unity. Streams’ moving together to form one river, “The River”, is happening worldwide. A dimension of this converging “River” is healing. Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless Bride, without stain or wrinkle. A fruit of Unity is Reconciliation.
When thinking about reconciliation, one has to consider the restorative act of coming together. There are serious hurts, and woundings that we inflict on one another, even in families, (track it from the beginning of mankind). There is the offender and the one offended, and often times each party feels injured.
During our day of Unity and Reconciliation, we as leaders of different denominations began to experience a deeper understanding of the validity of others’ heart for God. Priests praying for pastors, pastors praying for priests, and leaders of different “streams” all asking for forgiveness one of the other; in the process, misunderstandings and judgments being diffused. Heart connections formed and a new love was expressed for each other and the groups represented. There were so many highlights from the day, too numerous to express. One example was the confession corporately of the sin of division.
“Diversity is Divine; division is diabolic.” – source unknown.
When leaders of different denominations meet together and there is “Unity in the Spirit”, it is a God thing. God seems to be saying, “I have not created you all be the same, it is not about uniformity, but a celebration of difference and uniqueness, I need you as much as you need me and together we are made whole, and make up the whole body of Jesus (1 Cor.12:12). It was a breath of fresh air when we heard from Roman Catholic leaders that God was not bringing us into a place of conformity that would depict a one-world type of ideology. In this we keep the beauty of what God has given us and do not lose the Oneness He is bringing us into. It was a beautiful picture Matteo shared, that it is the pastoral work of Jesus to attract His Bride to Himself. It is the work of Jesus to bring us together and closer to Him at the same time. Together we will be made beautiful for our King Jesus.
Convergence is happening worldwide. For example, the Partners in Harvest Network of Churches hosted their annual conference, October 3-7, 2011, entitled The Three Streams Convergence. Three streams coming together; Catch the Fire, International House of Prayer and Bethel International. Next year Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, USA, is hosting a summit called Converge21. They have invited a leader from almost every movement, and expression of the Holy Spirit in this century, in the hopes of meeting together to transform the spiritual landscape of the USA.
What happens when believers of different denominations come together, even if it is just for the simply purpose of loving each other and fellowshipping or dialoguing? Synergism, takes place! The clearest definition I have heard is from a word that Dutch Sheets received in the year 2002.
“I do not want to sound sensationalistic when I say this but I am going to title it the way that I am because it is a phrase that God gave me very clearly just a week or so ago and I have been meditating on this phrase ever since in this particular form it is the first time I have ever ministered this word I, I believe it’s a fresh word from the Lord for us and the phrase that he gave me was the synergy of the ages. … This is the revelation God has been bringing to me, it is a synergistic joining century defined as the combined action of 2 or more which have a greater total effect than some of their individual efforts.”
In my own words let me explain this “synergism”. It is a journey I started years ago, that reached a pivotal point about 2 years ago. In 2010 I was privileged to attend a global congress focused on the Holy Spirit empowerment for the 21st century – at Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This marked the 50th year of the Charismatic Renewal. Along these lines, executive director of Empowered 21, Billy Wilson, put together what I believe was more than, “just another conference,” but something that was and is in the heart of God. A stated goal of that great event was to “witness the convergence of the worldwide streams of the Spirit-empowered movement into a united river of blessing that will flood the earth,” (www.empowered21.com/purposes.php). I believe there are many streams that flow into this one great River. Psalm 46:4 says it all, “There is a River whose Streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”
At the Empowered21 pre-congress meeting I had a foretaste of this synergistic converging into the ONE Bride. John 17:23 was revealed to me, “I (Jesus) in them (body of Christ – Bride), and You (Father – God) in Me (Jesus – Bridegroom). May they (the whole body) be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me,” (NIV).
The pre-congress meeting was set up as a “round table” and took place at the Board of Trustees Room at ORU. Together there was an Eastern Catholic priest, Orthodox priest many protestant ministers including Dr. Vinson Synan, Pentecostal theologian and Dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University. Even though I find it difficult to explain the experience I had at this meeting, I can say it was like God knit our spirits together for a split second where a tremendous blessing was poured out on us all. It was nothing that we said or did but purely a “God thing”. My Texan friend, Ron Allen, put it this way; “It certainly must help us if we recognize, that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit which creates a unity, which we ourselves can never create”. This work that the Holy Spirit Himself “creates” is the synergy that we, Spirit led followers of Christ experienced when we met together. For me this profoundly changed the idea of trying to make “things happen”, by trying to reconcile in form, or method. The leaders revealed their heart for God. The commonality of this focus allowed us, at all costs, to desire a continuation of this journey together even as it may mean we truly deal with and take personal responsibility for the divides in the Body of Christ.
While in Tulsa, Oklahoma I took a day excursion to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. Central to IHOP’s teaching is what the director, Mike Bickle, describes as the “Bridal Paradigm”. Jesus prepares His Bride (the Church) for himself, the Bridegroom. Ephesians 5:27 states, “that He (Jesus) might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy without blemish”. My home church, Catch The Fire, loves to speak about this relationship of Bride and Bridegroom. But we certainly have not explored this subject in our teachings, with the amount of depth IHOP has. As one of the core teachings of Mike Bickle, we all have a lot to learn.
The concept of the “Bridal Paradigm”, and the unity for which Jesus prays to the Father, is something that is being prepared for the end-time Church. I sense a real excitement as God is working in the Bride today, so that she comes to that place of holiness, purity and oneness! The Church, the Bride, is in a preparation phase as it adorns herself for that wedding night.
What we experienced in Tulsa as we gathered together is something that is in the heart and nature of God. Knowing that I was touching God’s heart was in itself enough and worth it all! I could give my life to this. The amazing thing is that when an incredible and unexplainable synergism is experienced, as I did, it is best described by using a term from my Catholic friends, “a mystery”, as we supernaturally enter into the heart of God. Entering into the fulfillment of this mystery is like the, “deep calling unto the deep”. As we go deeper into God, Psalm 133 is fulfilled:
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
Recently I asked the question, “how God”? Unity and Reconciliation seems impossible, how will this Oneness come about? I sensed the Lord say to me, come into me and as you draw closer to me and bring others closer to me, it will happen. I shared this dialogue with God in a message to my church, and immediately after my message a friend, Alan Loveless from Wales, UK, also shared a story with me that I believe was a confirming word to what God had previously spoken to me. In 1995, just before he was going to speak to a congregation in the Northern part of Ireland about Unity, he saw outside of the rectory, a wagon wheel/cartwheel. That image remained with him until the Lord gave him the following impressions:
“The hub of the wheel represents Jesus, the spokes represent born-again spirit filled Christians of all different denominations. The closer the spokes get to the hub the closer they are to one another. Christians draw from the source, the centre hub and go out to where the rubber hits the road (the outer part of the wheel). This is where the Christian interacts with the world in mission, it is also where things feel most bumpy!”
Interesting idea; that things today feel most bumpy at the outer part of the wheel. The “early church” Christians were known by secular historians by how they “loved one another”. Would it be less bumpy if the love part, which is so essential when it comes to unity (the bridal paradigm), came to a whole different level in these days? The One body of Christ (the church) that manifests the nature of God will represent the God who is love!
In further thought, what about the purpose of unity and the fruit of reconciliation? Well dialoging in the spirit of Love begins the journey together; having the same heart. Acts 2 speaks about being in one accord and being baptized with the Holy Spirit for the purpose of witnessing to the world. Jesus says that they, the Church, be One, so that the world may believe. Unity leads to evangelism. Unity leads to healing the wounded heart, uniting man to God as well as another and the healing of land. We come through different spokes of the wheel to One God, One Jesus. As Ephesians 4:5 puts it, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
Jesus purchased by His death one Bride, which is undivided, pure and holy and filled with His Spirit. There is no stopping this move of Jesus to marry His bride. There is a prayer that Father God will answer before Jesus returns for His Bride and that is the prayer of His Son. So focused on the Father’s heart, Jesus thought it important enough that he prayed it moments before his crucifixion; that the Church would be ONE!
Therefore I believe that Father God is longing with favour upon the bridal movement. So what’s next? How does this work out practically? We understand that this unity is something that we cannot make happen only through human effort and it is a “God thing”, inviting us, further “in Him”. Ending his pilgrimage in Martin Luther’s monastery, which the Pope called a “feast of Faith”, he said these words,
“We saw once again how important our common witness of faith in Jesus Christ is in today’s world, which often ignores God and takes no interest in him. Our common effort is needed along the path toward full unity, but we are always well aware that we can neither ‘make’ faith nor the unity we so desire. A faith that we ourselves create is of no value; true unity is rather a gift from the Lord, who prayed and who always prays for the unity of his disciples. “Only Christ can give us this unity, and we ourselves will be ever more united in the measure that we turn to him and allow ourselves to be transformed by him.”
I am aware that as we are baptized in His Love, filled with His Spirit and fire, the world will witness the greatest harvest of souls ever. The Unity and Reconciliation movement that we are calling “United in Christ”, led by Matteo Calisi and other Christian leaders, have a heart “to see the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14. They plan on visiting nations, preparing the way for the Bridegrooms coming.
I am spearheading the Canadian front, and I have identified three areas that I believe God intends to heal through this movement. I believe our Catholic brothers and sisters have a large part of the healing of our nation.
1) The divide between English and French speaking immigrants.
2) The divide between First Nations and immigrants.
3) The divide between the East and the West.
Over the next few years, we desire to meet together to bring Unity and Reconciliation across Canada, targeting the major cities. If you have a heart for this vision and would like more information please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org . (A short message from Matteo Calisi and Tony Palmer can be found on Revive TV http://www.catchthefire.tv/watch/videoid/670e5a421f329 )
Bruno Ierullo, D.Min.