UPDATED — July 23, 2014 — see update below.
Bishop Anthony Joseph “Tony” Palmer, a South African Bishop with the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, who earlier this year gained notoriety as the mediator of a meeting between a small cadre of high-profile Charismatic leaders and Catholic Pope Francis, died Sunday, July 20, 2014, from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in the UK. Surgeons laboring for more than 10 hours were unable to save him from his mortal injuries.
The UK-born Palmer, a former Anglican, while doing missionary work in South America, came to know and become a personal friend of Catholic Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who years later was elected the new Catholic Pope on March 13, 2013.In January 2014, during a Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference hosted by Kenneth Copeland, which he attended as a special envoy on behalf of Pope Francis, Palmer recounted the story of receiving an unexpected phone call one night following the papal election from the newly chosen Pope, inviting him to a personal visit at the Vatican. During the visit, Pope Francis asked him to record on his iPhone a brief video message addressing Copeland and the conference attendees. The Papal video-message (read transcript) that has been characterized as a message of “brotherhood, unity and love,” in which the Pope looking into the phone-cam, says, “Let’s give each other a spiritual hug and let God complete the work that he has begun,” was played at the conference after a message delivered by Bishop Palmer speaking on behalf of the Pope, which he concluded with the provocative question: “Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over. Is yours?”
Immediately following Palmer’s message, in the live conference session, Kenneth Copeland responded in kind by recording a live-video response to the Pope in which he essentially claimed to be speaking on behalf of the American church at-large, Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals, and prayed for and invoked blessings in the name of Jesus upon the Pope.
The event and Palmer’s ecumenically-charged message and appeal, coupled with his affiliation with an ecclesiastical organization that overtly associates itself with and promulgates and promotes the message and mission of the so-called “Convergence Movement,” combusted into a maelstrom of vitriolic controversy worldwide that continues to rage loudly and vehemently on the Internet, particularly by those who thoroughly reject and fervently repudiate all conceptions of ecumenicism and its underlying and inherent syncretism.
On June 24th this year, a few weeks after a Vatican papal-reception of a party of U.S. dignitaries and VIPs that included Joel Osteen, the pontiff met with five high-profile Charismatic-Evangelicals—Kenneth Copeland, James (and his wife, Betty) Robison, Geoff Tunnicliffe of the Worldwide Evangelical Alliance; and John and Carol Arnott of Catch the Fire Toronto. The meeting has spawned extensive suspicion and speculation regarding its intents and purposes, and its participants have been roundly criticized by incredulous and distrustful opponents of “end-time ecumenism, as well as what some ecclesiastical sects and cluster-groups refer to as “Convergence.” Most so-called Emerging Church principals and proponents, such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and many others, identify also with the “Ecumenism Movement” promulgated by the Catholic Church, which not only advocates and promotes unification of Catholics and Protestants, but also inclusion of Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu adherents, et al.
A statement posted on the website of the ecclesiastical community of which Palmer was the Bishop, The Order of The Ark Community, reads:
Dear Friends and Companions,
It is with deepest sadness to inform you that +Tony Palmer went to be with Jesus yesterday evening (20th July 2014). +Tony died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident the morning of 20th July and although surgeons tried to save him for 10 hours, they were unable to do so. We humbly ask that +Tony’s family be given space to grieve at this incredibly difficult time but we encourage you to leave your condolences by CLICKING HERE for them the read as a source of encouragement and strength. Thank you all for your continued support and prayers.
Only two days following the shocking news of Palmer’s sudden and tragic death, it has already sparked caustic claims by staunch ecumenicism critics and Internet pundits that it is an act of divine judgment. Grief-stricken admirers insist it was an inexplicable, incredible, coincidental, heartrending accident. Still others claim it is the clear work of a vicious supernatural adversary whose Biblically-revealed mission is to steal, kill, and destroy, and thereby stop God-ordained purposes carried out through the saints.
UPDATE — July 23, 2014:
Today the following statement was posted to the front page of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches website:
We Mourn The Loss Of Our Friend Bishop Tony Palmer
The Bishops, Clergy, and Parishes of the CEEC are shocked and moved with a deep sense of grief at the loss of their friend, brother and Ecumenical Officer, Bishop Tony Palmer. Bishop Palmer has been a voice of reason, heralding the cause of unity to Church at large and to this Communion in particular.
Bishop Palmer tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident Sunday. His close associate, Ms. Ayshka Sené, at the Ark Community reported Sunday that’ “Tony was riding on his bike near his home and was hit by a car.” Three teams of surgeons worked for at least 10 hours to treat Tony’s injuries but to no avail.
Bishop Palmer leaves behind a loving wife Emiliana, son Daniele and daughter Gabi. Please pray for each of them that the Holy Spirit bring them comfort and peace. Pope Francis was notified of Bishop Tony’s injuries, then updated of his passing on Monday, July 20th, 2014. He has personally communicated twice with Mrs Palmer and the family.
Ms. Sené asked that “Bishop Tony’s family be given space to grieve at this incredibly difficult time. She stated that more information will be forthcoming in due course.”
As each of us look to our Heavenly Father for comfort and guidance in times like these, may we all remember that life is eternal, God’s promises are sure and we are part of a far greater family in heaven. Bishop Tony now sees face to face what we can now only anticipate with joy and longing.
May the purpose and plan of God for His Church not suffer
at the loss of such a friend as Bishop Palmer.
Now is the time to stand and be people of vision and faith
to see the prayer of Christ fulfilled in John 17;
“Father I pray that they may be one…that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
May we all proclaim with Bishop Palmer,
“The Miracle of Unity Has Begun.”
Thank you all for your continued prayers.[end statement]
Fact is, no one can definitively know who or what is behind the early demise of this man or anyone for that matter, and such adjudications are best and must be left to the Immortal and Omniscient Judge of all mankind. Speculation, no matter how spiritual-sounding or pious-appearing, remains to be just that—speculation—and nothing more than that, and serves no useful purpose. To engage in such public speculation wars, only diminishes the fair name by which believers are called, as well as the Heavenly purposes to which the genuine faithful are committed. Far better, to leave it to God, ascribing to the enlightening proverb, “Even a fool is accounted wise if he keeps his silence.” In some cases, silence is brilliant, and speaks louder than the aggregate of all the noisy conjecture that could be shouted from the rooftops. Of course, human nature being what it is, and the unredeemed human heart being desperately sick above all else, judgments—right or wrong, fair or unfair, malevolent or beneficent—will nevertheless be made, but nothing save ego compels broadcast or even disclosure of those private determinations, and sometimes, such as, I would submit, in matters like this, silence is indeed golden, rather than yellow. No matter what the judgment, it cannot, in this realm and time, be proved, so what’s the point?
The Spirit, via Scripture, consigns to all believers, to as much as it depends on each of us, the requirement to be at peace with all men and living conduits and agents of the Agape-Love of God, being warned that whoever hates his brother in the eyes of God is a murderer, devoid of the indwelling of the Spirit. In that, considering all the multitudinous descriptors He could have cited, God chose to self-describe Himself with the single noun, “Love,” it is incumbent upon all who claim to be His Spiritual offspring that their life and very existence likewise consist of and reflect that Agape-Love.###
 Editor’s note: Spirit Life Magazine received a comment dated 7-23-14 from the Presiding Archbishop of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, Dr. Charles Travis, stating: “The convergence movement that the CEEC embraces does not promote universalism but the merging of the three historical streams of the church which are the evangelical, charismatic and sacramental. Not a blending of all faiths.” [See below] This portion of this article has been modified for clarification purposes. It was not our intent to indicate that either the CEEC or the Convergence Movement promoted universalism, but rather that both advocates for the merging, or what they refer to as “converging” of Protestantism with Catholicism, which to the majority of Protestant streams such as the Pentecostal and Charismatic streams is analogous to attempting to merge or converge oil and water, though what Convergence adherents claim is that the resultant convergence is a “better,” more “spiritual,” more “accurate” ecclesiastical model because it is more like the Early Church model, and it is that claim that Convergence opponents reject and object to. Nevertheless, it was not our intent to misrepresent the Convergence concept, nor the CEEC’s position regarding it. To better understand the CEEC’s beliefs regarding Convergence, please click here to read their own statement concerning it on their website.
Kenneth Copeland Conference Video:
Pope Francis’ Video Message:
Dr. Steven Lambert was ordained in 1977 and holds several earned graduate/post-graduate degrees. Over more than four decades in ministry, he has served as a pastor, radio/TV host, adjunct-professor, Board Certified Doctoral Diplomate Christian Therapist/Counselor, and a speaker/commentator on a range of social, political, and theological issues, particularly as a recognized authority on the matter of ecclesiastical authoritarian abuse. He is the founder/Overseer of Ephesians Four Network (ephesiansfour.net) and its subsidiary, Ephesians Four Network of Deliverance Counselors (efndc.ephesiansfour.net). Dr. Lambert authored several books (catalog at realtruthpublications.com), many published articles, and is the founder/editor of Spirit Life Magazine (spiritlifemag.com). His bio, extensive blog, and scheduling information are available on his ministry website at: http://www.slm.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
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