RE: Ty Gibson’s “So What About The Pope?”

Pope Francis opted for a humble ride in Fiat 500L against the giant US SUVs and the Obama $1.5 million USD armored limo “The Beast”. Does that speak something about the pope? Probably something profound more than just humility as the popular media has concluded.

In a recent collogue at the theological department of the University of Geneva, five theologians from the faculty debated on the ecological missiology of pope Francis on the theme “Regards protestante croisés sur l’Encyclique du Pape “Laudato si” sur l’ecologie”, meaning, “Protestants perspective on the papal encyclical on the ecology”. One of the theologians, Michel Grandjean, a professor in Medieval Church History, traced the basis of pope Francis’ ecological missiology after his admiring figure Francis of Assisi, a man who denounced riches to choose a simplistic lifestyle. One notable aspect of Francis of Assisi’s life was his admiration of nature. As Grandjean stated, Pope Francis is explicitly acting after the man Francis Assisi in his pontificate. The humble personality and ecological theology of Francis of Assisi are the underlining character of Pope Francis.

In 1979, in the Apostolic Letter Inter Sanctos, Pope John Paul II, conferred on Francis Assisi the title of “the heavenly patron of those who promote the ecology”. He also added: “He offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation. As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honour and praise to the Lord”1.

Since Pope Francis ascended to the papacy, Pope Francis has been hailed for his piety towards the poor and his urgent call to curb global climatic challenges. In 2013, the Time Magazine named him “The People’s Pope” and “Person of the Year”. Pope Francis is the first pope to address the US Congress and that alone shows how the world has embraced his social reforms and humanitarian campaigns.

After Francis’ historic speech at the US Congress, an Indian writer wrote in the Washington post, “If you have a problem with Pope Francis’s message, you have a problem with Christ”. Contrary from this non-Christian perspective, this is not how everybody sees it. Among some Seventh-day Adventists, the people of prophecy, the pope’s speech is a microcosm of deception aimed at resurging papal supremacy and the Catholic’s agenda of introducing National Sunday Law. Such underlining tone reshuffles in a recent article “So What About The Pope?” published by Ty Gibson, Co-Director of Light Bearers ministries, which was also published on the Adventist Review website.

Gibson’s article is probably the most detailed Adventist response to Francis’ message to Congress this year. He takes on Francis as he paid particular attention to semantics to set his praxis. Gibson offers theological, historical and prophetic respond as he vilified the Bishop of Rome on his usage of the term “legislative activity”. However stimulating his article is, I think Gibson stumbled in his interpretation of the pope’s usage of the phrase “legislative activity”. This is something I find as a twist. Gibson wrote:

Well, there was something hinted at in his speech that poses a potential problem. Four times he said that the way forward in our chaotic world is by means of “legislative activity” or “by means of the law.”

This is partly true and partly not. Legislation has its limits. Just what kinds of things are acceptable to enforce by law? Pope Francis does not offer us any clear insight regarding where he would draw the legislation line. But when a pope talks about legislation, we Protestants understandably take a deep, apprehensive breath and watch for what’s coming next, because the Roman Catholic Church has a really bad history when it comes to exercising civil power.

Bellow is the portion of Francis’ usage of the term:

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Obviously, there is nothing in Francis’ message that presupposes any evil imperial legislation. Though I think Gibson had a perfect praxis, I also think that his praxis was a pretext since it’s a contextual twist. It appears to me that he was seeking a negative point of reference to point to prophecy.

Francis appears to the world as a champion of humility, peace and an apostle of the ecology. I may have my own beef with, not necessarily with just a pope, but the entire system of the papacy. But in this context of Francis’ speech to the US Congress, I think it’s a perfect example of the Sermon on the Mount of blessing.

Disclaimer: By this article, I have not, in anyway or manner, endorsed the whole teachings of Pope Francis. Neither have I attacked any personality in this article. Everything I have said here is content analysis and criticism.

  1. John Paul II, Peace With God The Creator, Peace With All of Creation. Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 Jan. 1990  
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Pastor/PhD Student
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor designate for the Adventist Fellowship Geneva in Switzerland, and studying for a PhD at the University of Geneva.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi
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Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi