I am simply overwhelmed with the news of the passing of my friend and fellow Bishop, Tony Palmer. Bishop Tony was first and foremost a loving husband and proud father. All of our Bishops are surrounding Bishop Tony’s family in prayer and I want to encourage each of you to keep them in your prayers as well.

Bishop Tony was the founder of The Ark Community of the CEEC (Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches) and served as the ecumenical officer. He has worked with “Acres of Love” (a ministry for orphans in South Africa) for many years.

Over the last several months Bishop Tony became known as the spiritual son and dear friend of Pope Francis. At the request of Pope Francis, Bishop Tony used his iPhone to record a message entitled “The Miracle of Unity.” This little video has inspired millions of believer around the world.

Bishop Tony and Pope Francis became friends; friends who shared the hope for unity within the Body of Christ. It is amazing what two friends can do.  A few days ago Bishop Tony wrote these words:

“People are God’s conduits through which He releases His blessings to us. He blesses us, but uses people to do it. Therefore if we break a relationship or a friendship we are effectively eliminating a possible sacred conduit, through which our prayers could be answered.”

“This means that respecting, nurturing and even investing in right relationships, is as important as our prayers themselves. Our relationships are vital for our prayers to be effectively answered – People are sacred conduits. But not all see the sanctity of relationships. Many do not honor relationships – some ‘use’ relationships and others even descend to abusing them.”

“Relationships are sacred. Destruction is the fruit of broken relationships, but respected and nurtured relationships bring us life. Let us commit ourselves to see our relationships with those around us in a new light. Ask God to become aware of the Sacred Conduits in your life.”

Bishop Tony truly was a “sacred conduit” into our lives. I am personally blessed to have known Bishop Tony as a friend. He truly blessed my life. Today I am reminded of how precious relationships are to each one of us.

After finishing a conversation with Bishop Tony a few months ago I realized that I was, and still am, “a friend of a friend.” My friend Tony was and still is a “friend” of Pope Francis.

Due to their friendship many of us have been encouraged that “visible unity” is a real possibility in the Body of Christ. We now must grieve the passing of our friend and brother Bishop. We must work to console and comfort his family. And we must continue to pray and seek the manifestation of the prayer of the dying Messiah: “….that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). 

If we think about it, we are all “a friend of a friend.” Real friendship is what brings real transformation in the world. Real friendship will manifest the unity that Christ prayed for.

Please pray for Bishop Tony’s family, for his friend Pope Francis. For those who have been laboring with Tony for the “miracle of unity” and for the Church.

Again, Bishop Tony’s wife and children deserve our greatest prayers, our deepest intercession and our sincerest thanks. In this moment as the world looks on let us remember their personal pain of this hour.

I realize that Tony now stands in the Presence of Jesus, and thus at every Eucharist.  And yet my heart is saddened with his departure.

Grace and Peace, from God the Father, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit….