Between 1,200 and 1,400 young adults at Costa Mesa's fast-growing Rock Harbor church on the first Sunday in April encountered two things that might be unexpected in hyper-hip Orange County. They heard 45 minutes of preaching from the Gospel of John and First Corinthians, and a lengthy prayer for the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church as it gathers in Rome to bury a great man and elect a new pontiff.
This is another legacy of John Paul II: So great was his witness for the common ground of Christianity-the dignity of every life, Christ's message of mercy, the need for obedience-that a cutting-edge congregation in the epicenter of the new Protestant "emergent" church did not hesitate to hold up the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and ask for God's grace in their crucial deliberations.
Many new believers don't know much of the struggles of Luther, Calvin, and Knox, but they all know of John Paul II and see him as having championed a social agenda that they largely share. As Pastor Mike Erre noted, they're not agreeing with Roman Catholic theology and they're aware of horrific scandals which have led the local bishop to enter into an over-$100 million settlement with victims of clergy abuse. But they know how important this pope was and the next will be.
Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Al Mohler, and many other evangelical leaders have set an example of appreciation of their Catholic neighbors, and especially for a magnificent man of courage, resolve, intellect, and good humor. It was a warming moment, after two weeks of sadness, to see hundreds of young men and women pray for those who have become crucial allies, if not completely reconciled brothers.