ROME – Two controversial TV preachers recently met Pope Francis in an effort to work toward tearing down the ‘walls of division’ between Catholics and Protestants.
Kenneth Copeland and James Robison are two religious leaders in northeast Texas known for drawing huge crowds to their services and events, and who were a part of leading the group identifying as a “delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders” in its meeting with the Roman Catholic pontiff late last month.
Copeland heads Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Eagle Mountain International Church, while Robison is an “apostolic elder” at Gateway Church and co-hosts the Life Today TV program.
In 2008, CBS News released a detailed report on Kenneth Copeland Ministries, saying an investigation “raises serious questions about the Copeland’s religious empire.” For example, according to the report, the “ministry” operates private jets which are often used for vacation trips.
“In my viewpoint,” one of the Copelands’ former employees told CBS News, “I believe that they were using a lot of the ministry’s assets for personal businesses.”
The Copelands have also been accused of promoting the so-called “prosperity gospel.”
“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” Copeland’s wife, Gloria, once preached, according to The New York Times.
Like the Copelands, Robison has been criticized for straying from traditional biblical teaching. He once invited “Father” Jonathan Morris to his Life Today TV program and praised his Catholic beliefs and practices.
“As a Protestant, every time you talk—every time I see you, I see Jesus,” Robison told Morris, according to Ken Silva at Apprising.org.
“I wish most Protestant preachers had the sensitivity, and discernment, and gift to communicate that you have,” Robison added.
This month, Copeland and Robison are once again the focus of controversy after news surfaced that they both visited Pope Francis at the Vatican in late June. Afterward, Robison said the meeting was an answered prayer, describing it as a “supernatural gathering” and “an unprecedented moment between evangelicals and the Catholic Pope.”
“On [June 24], for nearly three hours, a few of us were blessed to meet in an intimate circle of prayerful discussion,” Robison wrote in a blog post.
Several other evangelicals, including Robison’s wife, were present at the meeting, which was organized by an Episcopal bishop.
“This meeting was a miracle,” Robison told Fort Worth’s Star-Telegram after returning from Rome. “This is something God has done. God wants his arms around the world. And he wants Christians to put his arms around the world by working together.”
“The world is suffering,” Robison added. “We as Christians have too much love to share without fighting one another.”
Robison said he enjoyed every moment with the leader of the Roman Catholic church, saying he even gave Pope Francis a friendly high-five.
“We continued in such glorious fellowship that words could never begin to describe it,” he wrote. “I am fighting back tears even as I write, so glorious was the manifest presence of Jesus.”
Copeland shared similarly positive sentiments about the visit. According to Robison’s blog post, Copeland “lovingly” spoke “a few words of encouragement” to Pope Francis, afterward praying for him.
When news of the ecumenical get-together at the Vatican was publicized, many Christians expressed disappointment, saying it was unwise for the evangelical leaders to meet with Pope Francis.
“What fellowship does light have with darkness?” one commenter asked. “Roman Catholicism has never been and never will be Christian. You cannot unite what is not the same—that is called being unequally yoked!”
“We should bear in mind [that] Catholic doctrine can never marry with the doctrine of Jesus Christ,” another argued.
“There is a huge difference between loving and helping your neighbor and adopting their heresies,” a third asserted.
As previously reported, megachurch speaker Joel Osteen similarly met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in early June. After the meeting, Osteen praised the Pope’s attempts to make the church “more inclusive.”