As evangelical preachers in the American South, we’re excited to welcome our brother, Pope Francis, to the U.S. We want to be explicit in our evangelical welcome because so many who claim to be evangelical are criticizing the pope for being political and not preaching orthodox theology. There are more than 2,000 passages in the Bible that speak to the issues of poverty, justice, fair treatment for the vulnerable, and the ethic of love. Indeed, these issues are central to our faith, as anyone who honestly preaches Jesus’ good news (or evangelium in Greek) must acknowledge.
The Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical leader of Saddleback Church, publicly lamented that he was blind to this reality in the early part of his ministry. By the standard of Pope Francis’ critics, Warren would be considered political leader, not moral leader. So would the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.