Baptists and the New Pope

History was made last week with the selection of the first non-European Pope. Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, now known as “Pope Francis,” was selected with a great deal of fanfare and pageantry and it seems that the whole world has been transfixed by his selection.

But how should we as Baptists view the Pope? Is he God’s special representative, the sole head of the church? Many Catholics believe this to be the case, but as Baptists we don’t share this view.

As Baptists, we believe in the doctrine known as the “Priesthood of All Believers.” This doctrine is stated in I Peter 2:9 and it says, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” In other words, every believer is a priest, called to work for the Lord and we are all equal to one another in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28). Furthermore, we believe that there is only one High Priest, that is Christ Jesus (Hebrews 7:23-8:13).

Did you hear that? Each and every believer is a priest and has a responsibility to share the love of Jesus through word and deed and this is why we don’t have to go and see a priest for confession – we can confess our sins to God at any time and at any place! (see I John 1:5-10).

Now certainly the Pope deserves our respect as the head of a church – the largest church body in the world and also as the head of a nation state (the Vatican). In addition, we find common ground with the Pope on the church’s view that Jesus Christ is the only hope for a dark and dying world.

We also find common ground in Pope Frances’ commitment to social justice – the need for the church to take care of the poor and downtrodden. Indeed, Pope Francis in speaking about our modern society has said “the unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

I also have great respect for this new Pope’s commitment to humility and personal integrity. I think it’s wonderful that instead of opting in the past for limousine transportation that he rode the bus and that after being selected as Pope that he insisted upon going back to the hotel where he was staying and paying the bill for his room.

Today my prayers are with Pope Francis as he begins his tenure, but they are also with Baptists and other believers that we may all rise up and commit to living lives of integrity and doing all that we can do to minister to the needs of all of God’s children and in particular the poor and disadvantaged.

Peace, Power and Progress!
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

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