As more becomes known about Pope Francis following his election, many Catholics and non-Catholics are forming and refining their hopes and opinions. Three Charleston-area community leaders ventured to express their views:
The Rev. Isaac Holt, pastor of Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, said the surprising election might be a good sign.
“This new hope I have in him is that he use his huge pulpit influence on the 1.2 billion Catholic followers to counter what I see as a worldly assault on 2,000 years of basic church teachings,” Holt said.
The definition of sin is changing, and this change is dividing Christians, he said. “In 2013 the world’s list of what is accepted as a sin is getting shorter and shorter.”
Perhaps Pope Francis, with his long-held advocacy of the poor, Christian marriage, world peace and public prayer, will resist pressure from outside the church to change.
Not everyone wants the church to keep asserting its traditional views. Change is what Warren Redman-Gress hopes for. Redman-Gress is executive director of Alliance for Full Acceptance. He said it’s past time for the church adopt more inclusive policies.
“I can always hope that Pope Francis will find a place in the church and in his heart for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, leaving behind the exclusionary and wounding messages of the past,” Redman-Gress said. “It is often the hierarchy of the church that holds Catholics back from full acceptance; the Holy Father has a great opportunity for change.”
The Rev. Spike Coleman, pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in West Ashley, has connections with Latin American Christianity. He said he is excited that the church has a pope from a part of the world with such a strong Catholic presence.
It was no shock that the cardinals elected a church traditionalist, with conservative views on issues such as contraception, gay marriage and abortion, Coleman said.
“The cardinals — most of them are traditional guys appointed by the last two (conservative) popes. That they would appoint someone fairly traditional is not really surprising.”
The new pope’s Jesuit background, with its emphasis on serving the poor and shunning worldly riches, seems promising to Coleman.
“He can be a very challenging witness to the offices of the church, challenging in very positive ways,” he said.