Monday, March 18, 2013


by Alice Valdal

  With the election of a new pontif, the Roman Catholic church has been headline news this week.  Does that matter to us in the reformed church?  I think it does. 

The Pope is the spiritual leader for over 1.2 billion people.  China, the world's most populous country, boasts 1.3 billion.   The second most populous country, India, has approximately 1.2 billion.* 

     The difference between the Pope's sphere of influence and that of the government of China, is that his people are spread through every corner of the world, even China and India.

    Pope Francis wields tremendous influence, and that influence will affect the lives of non-Roman Catholics too.  For those in the media this week, he has been the face of Christianity.  As a member of the Christian church, I am glad to see us in the news.  At least the secular world is being reminded that Christian faith matters, that it is alive and relevant today, not just some relic of a bygone age.

    I've seen some posts on facebook along the line of "big yawn" but I think those comments can fall into the "doth protest too much," category.  If the author truly didn't care, why remark at all?  I've also seen the naysayers quickly going on the attack, looking for shortcomings, real or imagined of the new pope.  Another sign that the Pope, and by extension the world wide church,  has significance, even for those who would deny Christ.

     For us at SPPC, the election of the Bishop of Rome might spur us to examine our own form of governance.  The Presbyterian Church in Canada, has a moderator, who presides over General Assembly, the highest court of our church, but decisions on matters of theology and polity that affect the whole denomination are made made by the Assembly, not by the Moderator.  At a congregational level, those decisions are made by the ruling elders (session).  While we look to our minister for guidance, he/she is a teaching elder, not the ultimate authority.   In all our decisions, we pray to do the will of God.

    Curious about other denominations, I did a google search for the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The answer gave me a "duh" moment.  On website after website I read that Jesus Christ is the head of the church.  

    I'm sure the new Pope would be the first to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the head of the church.  In fact, today's newspaper reports Pope Francis declaring that the church must stick to its Gospel roots.  He warned that "we can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong.  We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church." 

      Reformed Church or Catholic, I think we can all agree that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and applaud our Roman Catholic brethren as they seek to proclaim Christ to the world.

*numbers taken from Wikipedia and compiled from latest census data available.

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