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The unity of the church to which we are called is a koinonia given and expressed in 1) the common confession of the apostolic faith; 2) a common sacramental life entered by the one baptism and celebrated together in one eucharistic fellowship; 3) a common life in which members and ministries are mutually recognized and reconciled; and 4) a common mission witnessing to the gospel of God’s grace to all people and serving the whole of creation. The goal of the search for full communion is realized when all the churches are able to recognize in one another the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church in its fullness. This full communion will be 5) expressed on the local level and the universal levels through conciliar forms of life and action. In such communion churches are bound in all aspects of life together at all levels in confessing the one faith and engaging in worship and witness, deliberation and action. (WCC, Canberra, 1991 in doc 14)This paragraph joins together elements our churches see as essential for “full communion.” These are the elements we shall see developed in the dialogues between Reformed and Catholic leaders.
This World Alliance of Reformed Churches document resonates with the vision set forth in the WCC statement quoted above.
When Christians gather at the Lord’s Table, they experience unity – a new depth of fellowship with the Lord and with one another – as a gift. They find assurance of reconciliation, forgiveness and healing. They also receive anew the mandate to be part of God’s mission, to share the Good News, and to invite all, not least the poor, the weak , the hungry and the oppressed, to join in the banquet.At the Lord’s Table, the church knows itself to be Christ’s body, called to present Christ to the world and to do the works of God. In the body of Christ, there is diversity in unity, variety which enriches fellowship, many gifts of the one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11.) Within the body of Christ, love becomes enfleshed in justice and sharing…
We do not know the precise form of the unity we seek but we believe that it must be such that all in each place must be seen as belonging to one fellowship and that these local, regional or national churches must be in conciliar communion with one another. (doc 4)
The communion in which Christians believe and for which they hope is, in its deepest reality, their unity with the Father through Christ in the Spirit. Since Pentecost, it has been given and received in the Church, the communion of saints. It is accomplished fully in the glory of heaven, but is already realized in the Church on earth as she journeys toward that fullness. Those who live united 1) in faith, hope and love, 2) in mutual service, 3) in common teaching and sacraments, 4) under the guidance of the pastors are part of that communion which constitutes the Church of God. This communion is realized concretely 5) in the particular churches, each of which is gathered together around its bishop. In each of these "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and alive." This communion is, by its very nature, universal. (#13 in doc 2)3) Common Vision
15. Norms for the belief and practice of the Church are not simply to be found in isolated proof-texts or in clearly discernible primitive patterns, but in the New Testament considered as a whole and as testimony to the divine purpose and mission for Israel, for the Church and for all humanity. In this respect, New Testament theology reckons with the content of the promise contained in the history of God's covenantal dealings with his people in the Old Testament.
16. There was complete agreement in presenting ecclesiology from a clear christological and pneumatological perspective in which the Church is the object of declared faith and cannot be completely embraced by a historical and sociological description.
There was also agreement in presenting the Church as the "body of Christ" (cf. 1 Cor 12:12 f. 27; Eph 5:30). The Apostle Paul's description of the Church as the body of Christ presupposes knowledge of the death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord. The Church exists therefore as the body of Christ essentially by the Holy Spirit, just as does the exalted Lord. Stress was laid, however, on the complementary character of other images, particularly that of the bride (cf. Eph 5:15-32), which warn us against any absolute identification. (doc 5)
1. Thomas Best, Gunther Gassmann, eds. On the Way to Fuller Koinonia, Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1993.
2. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, Origins, 23:9; Vatican Polyglot Press, 1993.
3. John Paul, Ut Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism, Origins, 25:4, June 8, 1995; Vatican Polyglot Press, 1995.
4. Mission and Unity, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Report of the consultation, Geneva, Switzerland, August 21-27 1988.
The statement of the Fourth Round in 1988, Partners in Peace and Education, centered on two topics, "Church and Nuclear Warfare," and "Church and Education." The consultation first discussed together the 1983 Roman Catholic Bishops' Peace Pastoral and several Presbyterian-Reformed statements dealing with the same issue. The consultation then grappled with different stances on aid to private education. This section of the statement reflected on compatibilities of understanding of the nature and function of the educational process in society and in Church.
The principle of approach to these themes was set at the outset and successfully adhered to all the way through: to treat both problems for the viewpoint of the Christian ecumenist, showing with clarity when there is agreement between the two traditions and with charity where there is disagreement; also, in the sincere conviction that diversity and unity are not mutually exclusive. (doc 10)
25. Both on the Catholic and on the Reformed side today, the problem is no longer presented in terms of the battle lines of post-Tridentine polemic.And in approaching our differences on the Church’s role in interpreting the Scriptures we are able to say:
Historical researches have shown not only how the New Testament writings are themselves already the outcome of and witness to traditions, but also how the canonization of the New Testament was part of the development of tradition.
Since the Second Vatican Council, Catholic teaching has stressed the very close connection between Scripture and Tradition: "springing from the same divine source, both so to speak coalesce and press towards the same goal" (Dei Verbum, 9). Scripture and Tradition thus constitute "the one holy treasure of the Word of God bequeathed to the Church" (Dei Verbum, 10) with a special dignity attaching to the Scriptures because in them apostolic preaching has been given especially clear expression (cf. Dei Verbum, 8).
26. In the light of these facts, the customary distinction between Scripture and Tradition as two different sources which operate as norms either alternatively or in parallel has become impossible…
We are agreed that the development of doctrine and the production of confessions of faith is a dynamic process. In this process the Word of God proves its own creative, critical and judging power. Through the Word, therefore, the Holy Spirit guides the Church to reflection, conversion and reform. (doc 5)
14. Historical scholarship today has not only produced fresh evidence concerning our respective roles in the Reformation and its aftermath. It also brings us together in broad agreement about sources, methods of inquiry and warrants for drawing conclusions…If we still inevitably interpret and select, at least we are aware that we do, and what that fact means as we strive for greater objectivity and more balanced judgment. (doc 7)This agreement corresponds with the faith of Catholic and Reformed churches as articulated in the Catholic councils and in Reformed confessional writings.
While both the Catholic and Reformed traditions accept Scripture, tradition, reason and experience as decisive touchstones of authority in matter of faith and morals, diverse ways these are understood in view of our theological training led to somewhat divergent ways of defining the key issues. In spite of the diversity within the two communions and the overlap at many points between them, these deep separations of training signaled how ethics tend to be viewed by the two traditions: Catholics tended to move from philosophical and ecclesiologcally established principles to the pastoral guidance of conscience with Christian love and discernment. Reformed participants tended to rely more heavily on biblical and theological themes to interpret the forces, structures and processes of social history, and therefore to define the normative possibilities which could guide the people of God in the context of community. In view of the fact that Catholicism is often viewed as more “corporative” in its faith and morals, and the Reformed traditions are more “individualistic,” these tendencies seemed almost ironic. Our stereotypes did not seem to fit. (doc 10)2) Common approach to our divisive history
30. In general it can be said today that a process of reassessment and re-evaluation of the Roman Catholic Church has been taking place among the Reformed Churches in the last decades, though not proceeding at the same pace everywhere. There are within the Reformed family those whose attitude to the Roman Catholic Church remains essentially negative: some because they remain to be convinced that the modern development of the Roman Catholic Church has really addressed the issues of the Reformation, and others because they have been largely untouched by the ecumenical exchanges of recent times and have therefore not been challenged or encouraged to reconsider their traditional stance. But this is only one part of the picture. Others in the Reformed tradition have sought to engage in a fresh constructive and critical evaluation both of the contemporary teaching and practice of the Roman Catholic Church and of the classical controverted issues.3) The creed we share
31. There is on the Reformed side an increasing sense that while the Reformation was at the time theologically and historically necessary, the division of the Western Church should not be accepted as the last word; that it is at best one-sided to read that history as if all the truth lay on the side of the Reformers and none at all on the side of their opponents and critics within the Roman Catholic camp; that there have been both in the more remote and more recent past many positive developments in the Roman Catholic Church itself; that the situation today presents new challenges for Christian witness and service which ought so far as possible to be answered together rather than in separation; and - perhaps most important of all - that Reformed Christians are called to search together with their Roman Catholic separated brothers and sisters for the unity which Christ wills for his Church, both in terms of contemporary witness and in terms of reconsidering traditional disagreements…
56. Roman Catholic negativity towards the Reformed churches had a number of intertwined bases. On the ecclesiastical level, the most obvious focus of contention was the Reformed rejection of the episcopacy and the papacy that was also sometimes expressed in terms that Roman Catholics found extremely offensive. Another cause of opposition was the fact that the Reformed principle of sola scriptura resulted in a repudiation of many Roman Catholic teachings and practices, such as the sacrifice of the Mass, Marian devotions, and the earning of indulgences.
59. In particular, Unitatis Redintegratio [the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism] noted that the churches and communities coming from the Reformation "are bound to the Catholic Church by an especially close relationship as a result of the long span of earlier centuries when Christian people lived together in ecclesiastical communion" (19). It recognized that the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as a means of salvation (3)…
63. The very recognition that this is the case marks important progress in our attempt to rid our memories of significant resentments and misconceptions. We need to set ourselves more diligently, however, to the task of reconciling these memories, by writing together the story of what happened in the sixteenth century, with attention not only to the clash of convictions over doctrine and church order, but with attention also as to how in the aftermath our two churches articulated their respective understandings into institutions, culture and the daily lives of believers. But, above all, for the ways in which our divisions have caused a scandal, and been an obstacle to the preaching of the Gospel, we need to ask forgiveness of Christ and of each other. (doc 7)
The sixth round of dialogue in the United States affirmed that:b) Authority
Churches of the Reformed tradition and the Catholic Church share the confession that the Church is rooted in God’s election of Israel as well as founded in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. In this, all our churches profess that the existence of the Church on earth comes forth from within the Trinity. The Father has sent his Son and his Spirit into the world to save humankind from sin, to make us a new creation, and to call us to be witnesses to the truth of the gospel.
The professions of faith that we have in common express a shared belief that the Church is the Body of Christ and the dwelling place of the Spirit. In its visibility reality, the Church of today is one with the apostolic church. It seeks to maintain the faith taught by the apostles who were the eyewitnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and who first proclaimed the forgiveness of sins through his saving power.
Our churches also share the confession that believers and disciples are united together in to one communion through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. In recent ecumenical literature, the word koinonia (or communion) is often used to designate this oneness. It reflects our communion in the life of the Trinity, our communion in the one faith and in charity, as well as the need for the visible elements of community that hold a body together and make it a witness to Christ in the world. (doc 18, pp. 35-36.)
40. The promise made by God to the Church is this: God remains faithful to his covenant and, despite the weaknesses and errors of Christians, he makes his Word heard in the Church. (doc 5)c) Church
The sixth round faced these differences quite directly.
[T]he Churches of the Reformed tradition and the Catholic Church struggle with the form and history of each other’s ministries. For the Reformed Churches it may seem that the Catholic Church allows its understanding of Episcopal order to prevail over the right teaching of the Word of God and the right administration of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. While accepting that the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism are celebrated in the Catholic Church, Reformed Christians are concerned that both these and preaching can be overpowered by Catholic positions on ministry and on the teaching authority of the magisterium in interpreting the Word…
The Catholic Church for its part finds deficiencies in the ministry of the Reformed Churches for two reasons. First, it views the ministry of Reformed Churches as being outside the line of ritual apostolic succession. Second, it views them as lacking the full communion with the Bishop of Rome. The Reformed Churches concur on these two points but, of course, do not identify them as deficiencies. (doc 18, p. 43)
113. The two conceptions, "the creation of the Word" and "sacrament of grace," can in fact be seen as expressing the same instrumental reality under different aspects, as complementary to each other or as two sides of the same coin… A particular point at which this tension becomes apparent is reached when it is asked how the questions of the continuity and order of the Church through the ages appear in the light of these two concepts…Visible/invisible church question
117. God's fidelity is given to men and women who are part of a long history and who, moreover, are sinners… This is also why the Church's continuity demands that it recognizes itself as semper reformanda. The sinfulness of humanity which affects not only members of the Church but also its institutions is opposed to fidelity to God. …
120. Nonetheless, as things are at present, divergences persist between us in our understanding of the continuity of the Church and its visibility. The Reformed churches give first consideration to continuity in the confession of faith and in the teaching of Gospel doctrine…
123…For Catholics, however, this break [in the 16th century] struck at the continuity of the tradition derived from the apostles and lived through many centuries. Insofar as the Reformed had broken with the ministerial structure handed down by tradition, they had deeply wounded the apostolicity of their churches. The severity of this judgment is moderated today because ecumenical contacts have made Catholics more aware of the features of authentic Christian identity preserved in those churches.
129. We diverge, however, on the matter of the closer identification of the Church with its visible aspects and structure. Roman Catholics maintain that the Church of Christ "subsists" in the Roman Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium 8), a formulation adopted at the Second Vatican Council to avoid the exclusive identification of Christ's Church with it. They admit likewise that many "elements" or "attributes" of great value by which the Church is constituted, are present in the "separated churches and communities" and that these last are "in no way devoid of significance and value in the mystery of salvation" (Unitatis Redintegratio 3). The question is, therefore, to what degree they can recognize that the Church of Christ also exists in the Reformed churches. The Reformed for their part do not understand the Church as reducible to this or that community, hierarchy or institution. They claim to belong to the Church and recognize that others also do... (doc 7)This difference also extends to the question of the extent to which we can speak of the Church as a mediator of God’s grace. Reformed and Catholics are agreed that this meditation can not be seen as parallel to or taking away from the unique mediation of Christ, but “The Church is at once the place, the instrument, and the minister chosen by God to make heard Christ’s word and celebrate the sacraments in God’s name throughout the centuries. (#86 doc 7, cf. also doc 9)
69. b)... We recognize that there is a betrayal of God's trust in us and that God's heart is saddened by our separation. From this condition we cannot free ourselves by our own strength... Because of sin, the law intended for life judges, condemns and leads to death... In Jesus, the unique mediator, in his death and resurrection, we are radically freed from this situation: the way of true life is opened to us anew.
78. To speak in this way of our justification and reconciliation with God is to say that faith is above all a reception (Rom 5:1-2): it is received and in turn it gives thanks for grace… We receive from Christ our justification, that is our pardon, our liberation, our life with God. By faith, we are liberated from our presumption that we can somehow save ourselves; by faith, we are comforted in spite of our terror of losing ourselves…
79. The person justified by the free gift of faith, i.e. by a faith embraced with a freedom restored to its fullness, can henceforth live according to righteousness… And so, justification by faith brings with it the gift of sanctification, which can grow continuously as it creates life, justice and liberty…
80. Together we confess the church, for there is no justification in isolation. All justification takes place in the community of believers or is ordered toward the gathering of such a community… This presence and this action are enabled and empowered by the Spirit, by whom Christ calls to unite human beings to himself, to express his reality through them, to associate them in the mystery of his self-offering for them. (doc 7)
Administered in obedience to our Lord, baptism is a sign and seal of our common discipleship. Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other and with the Church of every time and place. Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity. (BEM as quoted in doc 18)In many parts of the world there have been formal agreements for the mutual recognition of baptism. In many parts of the United States there are joint baptismal agreements in which Catholic and Reformed churches participate. The present seventh round of the dialogue is expected to provide a formal articulation of common Reformed and Catholic faith in the sacrament and what gifts we receive from our different understandings. In 1990, the second round of the Reformed-Catholic International Dialogue recommended that “our churches should give expression to mutual recognition of Baptism. [This recognition] is to be understood as an expression of the profound communion that Jesus Christ himself establishes among his disciples and which no human failure can destroy.” (As quoted in doc 18, p. 21.)
Baptism … constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn. Baptism, of itself, is the beginning, for it is directed towards the acquiring of fullness of life in Christ. It is thus ordered to the profession of faith, to the full integration into the economy of salvation, and to Eucharistic communion. (doc 18)A full chapter in the report of round six, Interchurch Families, is devoted to “Our Common Baptism,” and deals in some detail with Reformed and Catholic convergence and divergence. The specific focus of the report is on how this matter affects interchurch families but much of its background is of a far more general nature. It concludes with the observation that “a recognition of our unity in baptism should be a spur that reminds us of the inherent anomaly of divided churches. As call, our baptismal unity should move us to ecumenical engagement. As gift, however, our baptismal unity should give our ecumenical engagement confidence.”
Clearly, steps must be taken to clarify misunderstandings, resolve genuine disagreements, and move toward shared Eucharists. Toward this end, we wish to indicate first our agreement in regard to the Lord’s Supper, then note differences, and finally make some recommendations in regard to both Holy Communion and other forms of worship.The international dialogue also suggests developments that mitigate the historical alienation:
We Roman Catholic and Presbyterian-Reformed Christians profess in faith that the Eucharist is the sacramental meal which Christ has given to his disciples. It is the effective sign of Christ’s gift of himself as the Bread of Life through the offering of his life and death and through his resurrection. It is the great thanksgiving to the Father for all that he has done in creation and redemption, for all that he does today in the Church and the world, and for all that he will accomplish in the consummation of his reign. In the Eucharist the Church celebrates the unrepeatable sacrifice of Christ and shares in its saving power.
Christ himself, with all he accomplished for us and all creation, is present in this memorial, which is also a foretaste of his coming reign. This memorial, in which Christ acts upon his Church through its joyful celebration, implies this presence and anticipation. It is not merely a mental or spiritual recollection of a past event or its significance, but the proclamation-making-present the whole of God’s great work in Christ Jesus, enabling the Church through its fellowship with Christ to share in that reality.
As the Church carries out this memorial of the suffering, death and exaltation of Christ, our high priest and intercessor, we receive from the Father the fruits of the unique and perfect sacrifice of his Son and beg the Father to apply its saving power to every human being. Thus, united with our Lord who offers himself to the Father, and in union with the universal Church in heaven and on earth, we renew and offer ourselves in a living and holy sacrifice, which we must express also in our daily lives. (doc 9)
70… In the words of institution the emphasis is on the fact of the personal presence of the living Lord in the event of the memorial and fellowship meal, not on the question as to how this real presence (the word "is") comes about and is to be explained…The Protestants (Reformed) and Catholics in the Netherlands have discussed these same issues. As early as 1975 they had agreed, regarding Christ’s presence in the Sacrament: “Through the Holy Spirit and his work the past becomes present reality, bread and wine are fulfilled as signs of the presence of Jesus, who is the Lamb, slain for our sins, who has died for us, who has taken the place of the animal sacrifice through the giving of his own blood for the new covenant. By the taking of the bread and the cup the Church celebrates this life offering of the Lord and participates therein.” (As quoted in Lienemann-Perrin, Vroom and Weinrich, eds. INTERCOMMUNION: The Asymmetrical Discussion Between Protestants and Catholics, p. 55. The Council of Churches of the Netherlands, Boekencentrum, Zoertermeer, 1999.)
84. The Reformed and Roman Catholics are convinced of the centrality of this common christological confession. The specific mode of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist is thus to be interpreted as the presence of the Son who is both consubstantial with us in our human and bodily existence while being eternally consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead (Jn 17:21-23). (doc 5)
- When Christ gives the apostles the commission ‘Do this in remembrance of me!' the word "remembrance" means more than merely a mental act of "recalling."
- The term "body" means the whole person of Jesus, the saving presence of which is experienced in the meal…
91. We also believe that the way is clearly opening out before us on which remaining misunderstandings and disagreements about the Lord's Supper can be cleared up. The terminology which arose in an earlier polemical context is not adequate for taking account of the extent of common theological understanding which exists in our respective churches. Thus we gratefully acknowledge that both traditions, Reformed and Roman Catholic, hold to the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and both hold at least that the Eucharist is, among other things:It is clear that this international dialogue outlines the imperative for Eucharistic agreement, in service to the mission of the church, but does not itself provide more than a biblical groundwork and some suggested lines of inquiry. The sixth round of the US dialogue has expanded on the pastoral issues that are raised in interchurch families. In that context, joyful notice was taken of particular special circumstances in which Eucharistic sharing is possible:
1. a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord;
2. a source of loving communion with him in the power of the Spirit (hence the epiclesis in the Liturgy), and
3. a source of the eschatological hope for his coming again.
Lines of Investigation
92. Our dialogue has convinced us of the urgent need to pursue the following questions:
Study of these questions should take into account:
- the constitutive elements of a eucharistic service, especially in view of its relation to certain forms of Christian fellowship, called in some countries "agape-celebrations";
- the use of the Eucharist today which grows out of a faithful reflection on the tradition and on the vast changes which typify life today;
- the urgent contemporary pastoral questions of mutual eucharistic hospitality.
- the rich connotations of memorial (anamnesis);
- the biblical and patristic "non-dualist" categories;
- the false antinomies which can be corrected by a study of such themes as "body, person, presence, spiritual";
- the question of the proper role of the ordained ministry in the celebration of the Eucharist. (doc 5)
The Catholic Church allows its ministers to occasionally give Communion to members of other churches who hold a Eucharistic doctrine that is consonant with Catholic teaching. This is done on special occasions, such as the marriage of two persons of different Churches and funerals when spiritual need can be most profound. It can also be done in unusual situations when, for a period of time, Christians of other churches have no ready access to Eucharistic services in their own congregations and their desire for the Eucharist cannot be satisfied. Catholics, however, may not receive Communion in Reformed Churches for any of these reasons. (doc 18, p. 65)Their report made some pastoral recommendations, including this encouragement for:
…interchurch families to join together in Eucharistic worship to whatever extent is possible. In this way we hope to offer some help, guidance, and encouragement to those in this situation. (doc 18 pp. 68-69)It is hoped that the current seventh round of the US dialogue may provide a more profound agreement, building upon the optimistic recommendations of the fourth round as set out in The Unity We Seek (doc 9).
If the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and Canada endorse the above report as an accurate presentation of official Roman Catholic teaching regarding the sacrament of the Eucharist, that will have significant implications on whether, and how, the Heidelberg Catechism ought to be modified. If Roman Catholic teaching is as it is presented in this report, the committee has serious concerns about the Heidelberg Catechism’s conclusion that “the Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry” (Q. and A. 80). If this report accurately presents Roman Catholic teaching, there are also serious questions about the Heidelberg Catechism’s representation, in Q. and A. 80, of what “the Mass teaches.” Thus, if this report accurately presents Roman Catholic teaching, significant changes in the Heidelberg Catechism may be warranted. (doc 12)The bishops of both conferences have answered the report in the affirmative. The Pontifical council for Christian Unity has also welcomed the Christian Reformed Report.
Condemnations and derogatory characterizations of the Catholic Church grew from momentous doctrinal disputes, especially in the areas of ecclesiology and the sacraments. Real differences in doctrine remain. ... These differences are being explored, and agreement sought, in the ongoing series of national and international Reformed-Catholic dialogues. The issue before the church now is far narrower in scope, dealing only with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),s current understanding of 16th and 17th century condemnations and characterizations of the Catholic Church and their applicability to the contemporary Catholic Church.4) Challenges on the road to a common ministry
Specific statements in 16th and 17th century confessions and catechisms in The Book of Confessions contain condemnations or derogatory characterizations of the Catholic Church: Chapters XVIII and XXII of the Scots Confession; Question and Answer 80 of the Heidelberg Catechism; and Chapters II, III, XVII, and XX, of the Second Helvetic Confession. (Chapters XXII, XXV, and XXIX of the Westminster Confession of Faith have been amended to remove anachronous and offensive language. Chapter XXVIII of the French Confession does not have constitutional standing.) While these statements emerged from substantial doctrinal disputes, they reflect 16th and 17th century polemics. Their condemnations and characterizations of the Catholic Church are not the position of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and are not applicable to current relationships between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Catholic Church. (DOC 19.)
96. The extension of Christ's ministry, including his priestly office, belongs to all members of his body (cf. 1 Petr 2:5-9). Each member contributes to that total ministry in a different fashion; there is a distribution of diverse gifts (cf. 1 Cor 12:4-11), and every baptized believer exercises his or her share in the total priesthood differently. This calling to the priesthood of all those who share in the body of Christ by baptism does not mean that there are no particular functions which are proper to the special ministry within the body of Christ. (doc 5)The US dialogue devoted a whole round (doc 17) to the ministry of the lay faithful in church and world. This text, Laity in the Church and in the World, is designed for congregational study and is oriented for empowering the laity for ecumenical ministry together. It sets out the common theology, articulates the differences of perspective on the authority of the laity in the Church and talks about the unique and essential role of the laity in building bridges both between the divided churches and between the Church and the world. It provides resources for enabling local dialogues to use the material and background references for further study, concluding with “a call for the realization that the ministry of reconciliation among the whole People of God is central. It is as important as the technical theological task of clearing away the divisions of centuries, or the serious institutional task of reforming church structure and practice.” (doc 17, p. 58.)
That round also observed thatEarly in the dialogue, the US made important contributions to the discussion of these most significant matters (doc 8, The Journal of Ecumenical Studies 5 (1968) 462-465; 7 (1970) 686-90; and 7 (1972) 589-612.) The international dialogue has enabled a helpful clarification of some of the issues to be resolved:
The Catholic Church also believes that ordained ministry is a sacrament and that it is made up of three offices: the episcopacy, the presbyterate (often called the priesthood), and the deaconate. Churches that have not kept the Episcopal order are not seen as in full conformity with apostolic tradition. … While the whole Church is embodied in every local church (that is, diocese) each of these local churches (dioceses) needs to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome in order to be fully a part of the universal Church.” (doc 18, p. 40)
94.The whole Church is apostolic. To be an apostle means to be sent, to have a particular mission… The mission of the Holy Spirit belongs to the constitution of the Church and her ministry, not merely to their effective functioning… This power manifests itself in a variety of ways which are charismata - gracious gifts of the one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:4ff). Guided by and instrumental to the work of God in this world, the Church has a charismatic character…Most Reformed churches do not have bishops though a few do, such as the Hungarian Reformed and the Reformed Church of Sweden. Reformed and Catholics affirm, however, the unique role of the minister of Word and Sacrament, the transmission of orders by the Church through the laying on of hands and prayer to the Holy Spirit. These ministers have a teaching office.
97. Within apostolicity in general there is a special ministry to which the administration of Word and Sacrament is entrusted… Ordination, or setting apart for the exercise of these special services, takes place within the context of the believing community… This is important to underline because we need to go beyond an understanding of ordination which suggests that those consecrated to the special ministry are given a potestas and derive a dignity from Christ without reference to the believing community.
107. There is a difference in the way each tradition approaches the question of how far and in what way the existence of the community of believers and its union with Christ and especially the celebration of the Eucharist necessitates an ordained office bearer in the Church… When it comes to the relations between ministry and sacrament, the Roman Catholics find that the Reformed minimize the extent to which God, in his plan for salvation, has bound himself to the Church, the ministry and the sacraments. The Reformed find that too often Roman Catholic theology minimizes the way the Church, the ministry and the sacraments remain bound to the freedom and the grace of the Holy Spirit. (doc 5)
135. This order [of ministry] is further manifest in the ministry of oversight (episkopé), exercised by Church members for the fidelity, unity, harmony, growth and discipline of the wayfaring people of God under Christ, who is "the Shepherd and Guardian (episkopos)" of all souls (I Pet 2:25). Various "gifts," "services," and "activities," are inspired by God's Spirit in the Church (I Cor 12:4-6), but all members are called upon to be concerned for that same unity, harmony, and unbuilding of the Church…
137. This [episcopal] pattern of leadership developed from some New Testament forms, while other (even earlier) New Testament forms did not develop. The spread and theological interpretation of ecclesial leadership in the immediate post New Testament period must be seen against the background of the wider development of the early Church and its articulation of the faith (see I Clem 40-44, especially 42, 1-2, 4; 44, 1-2; Ignatius of Antioch, Eph 2, 1-5; Magn 2; Hippolytus, Apost. Trad.). In the course of history some of the functions of such leaders underwent change; even so the ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons became in the ancient Church the universal pattern of church leadership. presbyters and deacons became in the ancient Church the universal pattern of church leadership. (doc 7)
102. We agree that the basic structure of the Church and its ministry is collegial. When one is consecrated to the special ministry, one accepts the discipline of being introduced into a collegial function which includes being subject to others in the Lord and drawing on the comfort and admonition of fellow ministers. This "collegiality" is expressed on the Reformed side by the synodical polity, and, on the Roman Catholic side, by the episcopal college, the understanding of which is in process of further development. In the Reformed polity, the synod functions as a corporate episcopacy, exercising oversight of pastors and congregations. (doc 5)
Round six concluded its treatment of these issues:
We all affirm and believe that God’s Word is passed on and that Christ and his Spirit are actively present in other communities as well as in our own. The communion in Christ and the Spirit celebrated in Baptism runs deeper than the problems aroused by teaching on the Church and the practice of ministry. Nevertheless, considerable theological and structural convergence will be required before we can give full recognition to one another. In the meantime, much interchange and sharing is possible on the basis of the recognition already achieved and in the hope of further progress. (doc 18, p. 44.)
Touched by the tragic personal and social dimensions of decisions regarding abortion, the members of the Roman Catholic/Presbyterian Reformed Consultation wish to express our common concerns... We believe that our defining traditions have much to contribute through dialogue towards the clarification of principles and the exercise of charity in this matter…3) Education
Abortion decisions exist in a milieu of closely related social evils which 'limit peoples' choices. Social, educational, and economical inequities suffered by women are part of the problem. Any discussion of abortion in our times should proceed with a recognition of the pervasive bias of cultural and ecclesial traditions which devalue women…
If our churches are to be credible in addressing abortion, they must take the lead in accepting women as full and contributing members of the human and ecclesial communities…
Some of the basic principles on which the Consultation was able to reach agreement include the following:
1. the transcendent basis for respect for human life is the image and likeness of God in which human beings are created;
2. the ultimate responsibility for moral decision making rests with the individual conscience guided by reason and grace;
3. authentic moral decisions can never be exclusively subjective or individualistic but must take account of the insights and concerns of the broader religious, social, and familial community;
4. judicial and legislative standards are not always coterminous with moral demands, and therefore the legalization of abortion does not of itself absolve the Christian conscience from moral responsibility; and
5. religious groups have the right to use licit means to influence civil policy regarding abortion.
Some of the areas in which substantial differences were discovered and which call for further dialogue between our two traditions including the following
1. the moment and meaning of personhood;
2. the rights of the unborn in situations where rights are in conflict;
3. the role of civil law in matters pertaining to abortion; and
4. the interrelation of individual versus communal factors in decision making.
In the light of our common Christian heritage… We will always respect the personal dignity of those involved in making decisions about abortion. Regardless of the ultimate decision reached, we will offer pastoral support insofar as our personal conscience and moral convictions allow. We will not resort to stereotypes and abusive language. We will work to transform societal arrangements which press people into untenable moral dilemmas. We will attempt to create compassionate community which overcomes alienation, loneliness, and rejection and which makes real a genuine community of moral discourse and decision. We will take responsibility as part of the mission of the church to create an ethos which values all life and which works toward a society where abortion need not occur. (doc 10)
In discussing Baptism, Eucharist, marriage and church affiliation, case studies are used in conjunction with doctrinal and disciplinary presentations. They are intended to make the treatment more concrete and to allow readers to see the issues at stake by having them reflect on specific experiences. (doc 18)As in few other relationships, interchurch families are called to live “in the breech” between our confessional traditions. Whatever differences there are between us are magnified in the experiences of these families; our agreements and similarities are joyfully embraced as gifts of the Holy Spirit upon their spiritual journey.
Such a union obliges the partners, their families, and their communities to consider together what is held in common regarding marriage, family life, and church practice, as well as points of difference. Without such insight and understanding, it is difficult for the partners to live their union in a shared Christian faith and to nurture a Christian family life. Those taking part in the dialogue saw such unions as an opportunity to promote mutual understanding and positive interaction between our Churches on issues of marriage, family life, and shared worship. (doc 18)The first chapter in this handbook summarizes some of the issues and concerns faced by interchurch families. In succeeding chapters, the report deals with the matters couples, pastors and congregations need to understand in order to support such unions and to integrate them into the life of our churches.
As we struggled with the intricacies of our Churches’ understandings of the matters before us, we recognized that some of the terms we used represented language we hold in common. At times, however, each tradition uses terms distinctive to our understandings and practices. And we discovered that in some confusing circumstances, we use the same words but mean something quite different by them. (doc 18)Early in Catholic participation in the ecumenical movement, Catholic practice relative to interchurch marriages evolved quickly as did the pastoral need for direction and mutual understanding on local levels. Many aspects of that evolution are reflected in a comparison between the results of round six in the United States and what follows. A European dialogue involving the Lutheran and Reformed bodies and the Holy See sought to clarify differences and serve pastoral concerns on local levels. This dialogue’s text begins with the context in which marriage is lived, before moving on to the theological content of Christian teaching. Similarities with the more recent dialogue in the United States are clearly set forth in this earlier document, illustrating again how continuing conversation leads us to build on the understandings achieved.
18. This relationship of grace between the mystery of Christ and the conjugal state requires a name. We all of us believe that the biblical term "Covenant" truly characterizes the mystery of marriage. It is this Covenant that the Catholic Church calls a sacrament. The Reformation Churches prefer not to employ this term chiefly because of their definition of what a sacrament is, because of the special character of marriage in relation to the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and finally because of the controversies and misunderstandings of the past. We believe, however, that in the light of our different mentalities and historical situations, we can have a view of marriage which is in a profound sense a common one.Even so, some acknowledged differences persist,
31. The difference between [a Protestant position on divorce] and the Catholic position is clear. In the Catholic Church marriage exists as a Christian marriage only in so far as it represents-must and can represent-in its fidelity the love of Christ for the Church. The Reformation Churches, on the other hand, consider that, since marriage needs to conform to the unity of Christ with the Church, the unity that the first marriage has not been able to realize, may possibly be realized in a second marriage after a divorce. They do not therefore view divorce as a radical obstacle to a second marriage…The text goes on to outline a detailed set of suggestions for the pastoral approach of the churches to interchurch couples and families that recur several years later in Interchurch Families.
45. And so we are led to Him whom we have never ceased to discover at the heart and source of Christian marriage: the Christ whose mystery of life and salvation we want to make shine out among us: something we are never completely certain that we are doing, but also never give up hope of doing. It is in any case this desire which should inspire the attitude we have to adopt toward mixed marriage, without minimizing or over-stating either our points of agreement or our points of dissent…
104. Given the prospect of a theological rapprochement, our Churches should endeavor, especially in the field of the problems of mixed marriages, to abandon the mutual mistrust which still often prevails… 106…But both sides were convinced that the theological agreements attained in the course of the dialogue were of decisive importance for the treatment of these questions, and, indeed, formed a fundamental condition for tackling them…(doc 6)
102. Accordingly, our respective interpretations of the division in the sixteenth century are not the same. The Reformed consider that the Reformation was a rupture with the Catholic "establishment" of the period. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the resulting division was a substantial rupture in the continuity of the Church. For Catholics, however, this break struck at the continuity of the tradition derived from the apostles and lived through many centuries. Insofar as the Reformed had broken with the ministerial structure handed down by tradition, they had deeply wounded the apostolicity of their churches. (doc 7)In order to deal with this rupture, however grave, the US dialogue made a proposal in 1975, already suggesting concrete steps toward full communion in belief, structure and worship, based in a common understanding of the Church, its unity and mission. This study foreshadowed other proposals for staged unity put forward in other bilateral dialogues and in World Council Faith and Order discussions.
If we maintain – we believe we must – that ecclesial unity is possible, then can we describe this possibility realistically? Can we so give shape to this possibility of Christian unity that we will be able to state future goals with Christian realism?...What do we mean when we say “one Church”? (doc 9)The theological basis is the understanding of the Church as communion (Koinonia), which was articulated already in the introduction. The recommendations are premised on the eschatological, pilgrim character of the Church. God is calling us to a form of unity we do not already experience, as we move forward in faithfulness to his calling. Based on this common understanding of the nature of the Church and of the elements of agreement in faith, in structure of the Church, and in worship, concrete recommendations are proposed in all three areas:
54. The Church was founded by Christ to share in the life which comes from the Father and it is sent to lead the world to Jesus Christ, to its full maturity for the glory and praise of the Father. It is therefore called to be the visible witness and sign of the liberating will of God, of the redemption granted in Jesus Christ, and of the kingdom of peace that is to come. The Church carries out this task by what it does and what it says, but also simply by being what it is, since it belongs to the nature of the Church to proclaim the word of judgment and grace, and to serve Christ in the poor, the oppressed and the desperate (Mt 25:31-40). More particularly, however, it comes together for the purpose of adoration and prayer, to receive ever new instruction and consolation and to celebrate the presence of Christ in the sacrament; around this center, and with the multiplicity of the gifts granted by the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:4-11, 28-30; Rom 12:6-8; Eph 4: 11) it lives as a koinonia of those who need and help each other. We consequently believe in a special presence of Christ in the Church by which it is placed in a quite special position in relation to the world and we believe that the Church stands under the special aid of the Holy Spirit, above all in its ministry of preaching and sacraments (cf. Jn 14:16, 25f, 15:26, 16:7-14)…
60. …The Church is a worshiping community whose prayers are inseparable from its prophetic and diaconal service. In worship and witness the Church celebrates the central fact of Christ's unity with his people. Being united to Christ in his death and resurrection, the Church is empowered with the Spirit to walk in newness of life and so to be a converted and converting presence in Christ's world. By living as a new people persuaded of God's acceptance in Christ, the Church is a persuasive sign of God's love for all his creation and of his liberating purpose for all men. (doc 5)
106. Both Roman Catholic and Reformed theology are particularly aware of the importance of the structure of the Church for the fulfillment of its commission. The Roman Catholic Church, in this regard, has derived a predominantly hierarchical ordering from the Lordship of Christ, whereas, from the same Lordship of Christ, the Reformed Church has decided for a predominantly presbyteral-synodal organization. Today both sides are taking a fresh look at the sense of the Church as it appears in images of the early Church. (doc 5, cf. also doc 9)
In light of the value that past Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogues have brought to our churches, acknowledging common ecumenical issues of the present time, and pursuing questions raised during round six in Interchurch Families, as well as in the action of the Christian Reformed Church regarding the Heidelberg Catechism no. 80, a new round of dialogue seems proper for our churches.Among the questions that the dialogue will address include the following:
This seventh round of these historic dialogues will focus on the meaning and practice of Baptism, the relationship of Baptism to Eucharist, and the role of both sacraments in shaping our churches and drawing them toward fuller communion. The dialogue will be methodologically designed to address issues that are theological, ecclesiastical and pastoral.
A. On the Theology of BaptismCo-chairs for the seventh round are Bishop Patrick R. Cooney of the Diocese of Gaylord in Michigan, and the Rev. Dr. Richard J. Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary in California.
B. On the Theology of Eucharist
- What is our common theology of baptism as sacrament?
- How does our theology of baptism shape our ecclesiology?
- What is the precise manner by which we recognize each other’s baptism
- What tangible expression can we give to this recognition?
- What is the relationship of Christian initiation to Eucharist?
- What is our theology of Eucharist as sacrament?
- How is Eucharist understood in our traditions as a sacrifice we offer and a gift we receive?
- What does the “sacrifice of the cross” mean?
- How do we understand the “real presence” How is it understood in the Lord’s Supper?
- How are we to understand the significance of Roman Catholic Eucharistic veneration?
- How do these theologies both shape and reflect our churches* worship?
- How do our theologies of Eucharist influence our ecclesial structures and their commitments?
- What implications do the differences and agreements regarding the Lord’s Supper have for the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Reformed Churches?
If we maintain – we believe we must – that ecclesial unity is possible, then can we describe this possibility realistically? Can we so give shape to this possibility of Christian unity that we will be able to state future goals with Christian realism? (doc 10)
4.1 The Holy Spirit as promoter of koinonia (2 Cor. 13:13) gives to those who are still divided the thirst and hunger for full communion. We remain restless until we grow together according to the wish and prayer of Christ that those who believe in him may be one (John 17:21). In the process of praying, working and struggling for unity, the Holy Spirit comforts us in pain, disturbs us when are satisfied to remain in our division, leads us to repentance, and grants us joy when our communion flourishes. (doc 1)
- “The Presence of Christ in Church and World.”
- “The Theology of Marriage and the Problems of Mixed Marriages” both in Lukas Vischer and Harding Meyer eds., Growth in Agreement Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level (New York: Paulist Press, 1984).433-464.
- “Toward a Common Understanding of the Church,” in William Rusch, Harding Meyer, Jeffrey Gros, eds., Growth in Agreement II, Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2000, 780-819.
Texts with background essays
- “Women in the Church,”
- “The Unity We Seek,”
- “Ethics and the Search for Unity,”
- “Partners in Peace and Education,” 8 - 11 in Jeffrey Gros and Joseph Burgess, ed., Building Unity (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 371-448.
- "Christian Reformed Church, Report of the Interchurch Relations Committee Clarifying the Official Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church Concerning the Mass," 2002. (Interchurch Relations Committee Appendix D) in Jeffrey Gros, Lydia Veliko, eds., Growing Consensus II, Washington: US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004.
- “Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Understanding of 16th and17th Century Condemnations of other Churches in The Book of Confession. Prepared by the Office of Theology and Worship, 2004.
- Reconsiderations: Roman Catholic/Presbyterain and Reformed Theological Conversations 1966-67, New York: World Horizons, Inc., 1967.
- Ernest Unterkoefler and Andrew Harsanyi, eds., The Unity We Seek New York: Paulist Press, 1977.
- The Roman Catholic - Presbyterian/Reformed Consultation, Ethics and the Search for Christian Unity, Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 1981.
- Ronald White, Eugene Fisher, Partners in Peace and Education, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988.
- The Roman Catholic - Presbyterian/Reformed Consultation, Laity in the Church and the World: Resources for Ecumenical Dialogue, Washington: US Catholic Conference, 1998.
- John C. Bush & Patrick R. Coony, eds., Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press and Washington: US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002.
- “Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Dialogue,” Journal of Presbyterian History, 80:2, Summer, 2002. (various essays on the successor of Peter)
- John Radano, Catholic and Reformed, Louisville: Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church, 1996, Occasional Paper # 8.
- Lukas Visher, Andreas Karrer, ed., Reformed and Roman Catholic in Dialogue, Geneva: World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1988.
- Karl Lehmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, eds., The Condemnations of the Reformation Era, Do they Still Divide?, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.
Journey in Faith: Forty Years of Reformed-Catholic Dialogue: 1965-2005
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