Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
Update (Nov. 18): "There is always a danger in being the 28th speaker in a conference," said Rick Warren during his speech today at Pope Francis's marriage conference. "What's left to say?"
Apparently plenty, as Warren's speech—which he said he wrote from scratch the night before after yesterday's speakers covered his previously prepared main points—was “probably the first time ever the synod hall resembled a revivalist meeting,” tweeted David Quinn, an Irish Catholic columnist. The Saddleback Church senior pastor reportedly received a standing ovation following his remarks defending marriage between a man and a woman.
"As Christians we seem to be known more for what we're against than what we're for. I want to change that,” said Warren. According to his prepared remarks obtained by CT, he explored why Hebrews 13:4 commands that "marriage is to be honored by everyone" and laid out an "action plan" for conference attendees. In true evangelical form, his eight steps are in mostly alphabetical order:
Affirm the authority of God's word
Believe what Jesus taught about marriage
Celebrate healthy marriages
Develop small group courses to support marriage
Engage every media to promote marriage
Face attackers with joy and winsomeness
Give people confidence
Teach the purposes of marriage
"It is a myth that we must give up biblical truth on sexuality and marriage in order to evangelize," said Warren in his conclusion, which noted how Saddleback recently baptized its 40,000th adult convert. "In the end we must be merciful to the fallen, show grace to struggling, and be patient with the doubting. But when God’s Word is clear we must not—and we cannot—back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide from the truth."
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, also addressed the conference, acknowledging that the gathered audience came from different—and potentially warring—countries and represented a variety of faiths.
“But all of us in this room share at least one thing in common,” said Moore. “We recognize that marriage and family is a matter of public importance, not just of our various theological and ecclesial distinctive communities, since marriage is embedded in the creation order and is the means of human flourishing, not just the arena of individual human desires and appetites.”
Below is Warren's speech:
[Originally published November 3, 2014, at 4:44 p.m., entitled "Pope Francis Wants To Know What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage"]
Even Southern Baptists know not to turn down an invitation from the Pope.
Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, will meet Pope Francis and offer an “evangelical Protestant” perspective as part of a Vatican colloquium on marriage and family held this November 17-19.
“I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled,” wrore Moore on why he's going to the Vatican despite his disagreements with the Pope.
“I can hardly criticize from across the Tiber and then refuse to talk, when invited, about these matters,” he continued. “That’s especially the case when the American bishops have been resolute in standing with us, despite our real differences, on questions of religious liberty and the future of the family.”
Prolific Bible scholar N. T. Wright, the subject of CT's April cover story, has also been invited. Wright and Moore will speak on the same panel on the gathering's second day. Warren will give a 30-minute presentation later that afternoon.
Two other Anglican leaders—the United Kingdom's Michael Nazir-Ali and Nigeria's Nicholas Okoh—are also among the 32 speakers, as are Boston Pentecostal leader Jacqueline C. Rivers and Anabaptist leader Johann Christoph Arnold. Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh leaders have also been invited.
The colloquium's stated goal:
The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.
Witnesses will draw from the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.
The Pope has increasingly been interacting with a number of notable Protestants, including Geoff Tunnicliffe and Brian Stiller of the World Evangelical Alliance, pastor Joel Osteen, televangelists Kenneth Copeland and James Robison, members of the Green family (founders of Hobby Lobby), and Westmont College president Gayle Beebe. "We are brothers," Francis told a gathering of Pentecostal leaders at a Copeland conference.
In September, in anticipation of last month’s synod on the family, Warren and nearly 50 other Christian conservative intellectuals and church leaders signed an open letter urging the Pope to fight for marriage in the face of challenges like pornography, divorce, and cohabitation.
Following Francis’s ascent to the papacy, Moore told CT that he admired the Catholic leader’s track record of living among the poor and caring for social outcasts. "I pray that his example spurs evangelicals like me to remember our mandate to love the least of these, the hurting and the vulnerable, the brothers and sisters of our Lord," he said.
Moore's comment was part of CT's report on why Francis excites (most) evangelical leaders. Evangelist Luis Palau described Francis to CT as a personal friend and a “very Bible-centered” and “very Jesus Christ-centered man.” Argentine evangelicals saw Francis's selection as an "answer to our prayers."
But not all have warmed to Francis's overtures to evangelicals. In July, a "near totality" of Italian evangelicals warned U.S. evangelicals against getting too cozy with the Catholic Church. "What appear to be similarities with the Evangelical faith and spirituality of sectors of Roman Catholicism are not in themselves reasons for hope in a true change," wrote leaders for the Italian Evangelical Alliance (IEA), the Federation of Pentecostal Churches, and the Assemblies of God in Italy. A few weeks later, Francis made an unprecedented visit to a Pentecostal church where he apologized for Catholics' past persecution of other Christians.