II. OUR LIFE TOGETHER
These five years of the dialogue between Disciples of Christ and
Roman Catholics have been the occasion of joy as we have grown together
in theological understanding, in fellowship, and in the way we approach
the problems of doctrine. We have been led to a better understanding
of the nature of the one Church of God, the situation of our divided
traditions, and also of the pressure of our common calling to visible
unity in Christ.
We are aware that we come from two very different Christian backgrounds.
Our histories, our cultural journeys, our theological traditions
and methods have, in some often important respects, been different.
Some of the problems between us spring from these differences. Yet,
the very diversity of our histories and Christian experiences frees
us for a new kind of ecumenical dialogue. The Disciples movement
was born out of the churches of the Reformation bul has developed
its own unique position among them. In particular, there was no
deliberate, formal break in communion between the Disciples of Christ
and the Roman Catholic Church, although our histories have included
the general bias which in the past reflected uncharitable attitudes
between Protestants and Roman Catholics. This fact has allowed us
to move beyond any initial apprehensions or presumed distance info
cordial relationships and to discover that we have more in common
than we expected.
A significant amount of what we thought initially to be division
cannot be so defined. We have begun to discover that when we go
beneath the current theological descriptions of our traditions,
a convergence becomes evident. As we understand our traditions and
our ecclesiologies more clearly, we discover a common source has
fed them. The customary vocabulary of division does nol exactly
describe our situation, even though there are stilt some important
things we cannot do together or on which we cannot yet be at one.
This dialogue has been liberating because both Disciples and Roman
Catholics set the fullness of communion at the heart of their understanding
of the Church. Barton Warren Stone claimed for Disciples: "Let
Christian unity be our polar star." Alexander Campbell proclaimed
that "The union of Christians is essential to the conversion
of the world." The same vocation, inherent in the Catholic
tradition, was also claimed for Roman Catholics by the Second Vatican
Council: "The restoration of unity among all Christians is
one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council ...
The concern for restoring unity involves the whole Church, faithful
and clergy alike" (Decree on Ecumenism, nn. 1,5).
Paradoxically, some of our differences spring from the ways we have
understood and pursued Christian unity. For example, the Disciples
of Christ, called into being as an instrument of unity among divided
Christians; have refused to make creeds the definitive faith in
order to promote unity and communion among Christians. The Roman
Catholic Church, on the other hand, holds to the creeds and the
Petrine ministry for the same purpose. Our dialogue has helped us
see this and other contrasts in the context of the fundamental commitment
of Disciples and Roman Catholics to serve the visible unity of the
whole People of God. In this perspective, some issues that seem
to divide us can be traced to the same roots and certain of our
differences appear complementary.
The nature of our ecumenical dialogue requires us to listen to each
other's theological words while searching for the language of convergence,
always in faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel. Our report gives
substantial commentary on the issues which have been at the heart
of the first phase of our dialogue and gives our churches hope for