II. New Creation and Communion
21. Christians confess that the same God who created human beings
has also redeemed them. God has not abandoned humanity to its sinfulness
but, through the plan of salvation, has given the possibility of
forgiveness of sin and new life. This plan of salvation culminates
in Christ Jesus. In the Spirit through the Son the Father gathers
into fellowship all those who had been alienated. By drawing people
out of isolation and into communion (koinonia) God makes a new creation
a humanity now established as children of God, a people who
know themselves to have received forgiveness of sin and to have
put away the old and put on the new, even as they await the consummation
still to come (Rom 8:18-25).
22. This activity of God — the forgiveness of sins and making a
new creation and the response to it in thanks and praise — is fundamental
to the experience and understanding of koinonia. Various meanings
of koinonia are found in the New Testament. Paul uses koinonia to
describe sharing in the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:14-20). In breaking
the bread and blessing the cup, Christians have koinonia with the
body and blood of Christ. The communities which contributed to the
collection for the saints in Jerusalem were bound in koinonia (or
partnership) with them through the sharing of material goods (2
Cor 8:3-4; Rom 15:26-27; Phil 1:5). Yet another use of koinonia
stresses the fellowship of those who walk in the light because they
are in communion with the Father and the Son, and consequently with
one another (1 Jn 1:3, 7).
23. To speak of communion (koinonia) is to speak of the way human
beings come to know God as God's purpose for humanity is revealed.
God in Christ through the Holy Spirit calls human beings to share
in the fellowship within the divine life, a call to which they respond
in faith. Thus, communion refers first to the fellowship with God
and subsequently to sharing with one another. Indeed it is only
by virtue of God's gift of grace through Jesus Christ that deep,
lasting communion is made possible: by baptism, persons participate
in the mystery of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and
are incorporated into the one Body of Christ, the Church.
24. The new creation is a foretaste of what will come in fullness
through the Spirit at the end of time. The Spirit of God, acting
in history, is the main agent of that communion which is the Church.
Persons are brought into living relationship with the Father through
the Son by the power of the Spirit. Human relationships are thus
set in a new context so that people may recognize one another as
equally God's children and come to acknowledge the bonds that link
them as a gift from God. People who have come to this new self-understanding
see all other human beings as men and women whom God wills also
to save. God's redeeming act in Christ demands that all humanity
and continuity with the Apostolic Community
25. To be the communion God wills, the Church has to live in the
memory of its origin, remembering with thanksgiving what God has
done in Christ Jesus. That memory sustains and nourishes its life.
The Church in fulfilment of its mission proclaims the good news
of the gracious, saving acts of God as the Word of God is preached,
the sacraments are celebrated, and the new life shared with God
26. To live in this memory means for Disciples and Roman Catholics
to be in continuity with the witness of the apostolic generation.
The New Testament speaks of those called apostles in the earliest
period in a variety of ways; and they played a unique and essential
role in formulating and communicating the Gospel. The Church is
founded on their proclamation. They began or nurtured the early
communities, and they soon chose collaborators in the first generation
of Christians to share the apostolic work of preaching, teaching,
and pastoral guidance.
27. Both Disciples and Roman Catholics share an intention to live
and teach in such a way that, when the Lord comes again, the Church
may be found witnessing to the faith of the apostles. By preserving
the memory of what the apostles taught, and by proclaiming and living
it anew for the present day, both Disciples and Roman Catholics
believe that they maintain continuity with the apostolic witness,
forming a living tradition that is ‘built upon the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone'
28. Memory, as in biblical usage, is more than a recalling to mind
of the past. It is the work of the Holy Spirit linking the past
with the present and maintaining the memory of that on which everything
depends — the faith itself and the Church which embodies that faith.
Through the Spirit therefore the power of what is remembered is
made present afresh, and succeeding generations appropriate the
event commemorated. The Spirit keeps alive the sense of the faith
in the whole community, and lavishes a variety of charisms that
enable it to live in the memory of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist
especially, the Spirit makes Christ present to the members of the
29. Both Disciples of Christ and Roman Catholics celebrate the Eucharist
regularly and frequently — at least every Sunday. Although they
have differences in the understanding of the Eucharist, they are
one in the conviction that the communion willed by God takes on
a specific reality at the Lords Supper. In fact, the celebration
of the Eucharist renews, makes real and deepens visible fellowship
with God. In the eucharistic gathering, they celebrate God's salvation
given through Christ as a gift, a gift which empowers for service.
To participate in the eucharistic celebration is to be reaffirmed
in membership of the people of God, to be empowered by Christ through
the Holy Spirit and so to be made a part of the work of reconciliation
in the world.
30. The Eucharist is an act through which a divine reality otherwise
more or less hidden emerges and is made present. What is revealed
is the plan of salvation, the good news that Jesus Christ reconciles
humanity to the Father. The Eucharist both symbolizes and makes
present, together with the gift of Christ himself, the salvation
offered through him. In it faith is freshly evoked and is further
nourished in the participant; for the community the essential elements
of Christian faith and life are expressed.
31. The Eucharist is a communal event. In it Christians are bound
with Christ and with one another. It is the action that most fully
expresses the fellowship that is the Church. Here also Christians
know more deeply and strengthen the hands that unite their local
community with other local Christian communities. Furthermore, they
find themselves impelled by eucharistic communion to extend themselves
in care for all those in God's creation, especially those who suffer.
Indeed, the Eucharist is essential to the being and mission of the
Church of God in the world. Christians acknowledge that a test of
their credibility to the world as a symbol of God's presence can
be found in the quality of the communion among themselves and with
32. God in Christ invites to the Eucharist, and through the Holy
Spirit binds together into one body, all who break the one loaf
and share the one cup. At the Lords table the unity of the Church
is accomplished, for believers are joined to Christ and to one another.
Thus, precisely because the celebration of the Eucharist is the
climax of the Church's life, disunity among Christians is felt most
keenly at the Eucharist; and their inability to celebrate the Lords
Supper together makes them less able to manifest the full catholicity
of the Church.
and Continuity with the Apostolic Community
33. Disciples and Roman Catholics are convinced that in their faith
they must remain in continuity with the apostles, even if they understand
what this demands in different wars. This common conviction challenges
them to explore the ways in which each has remained in continuity
with the apostolic community, and to explore as well the possibility
that each might be enriched by gifts remembered and exercised more
fully by the other. As they have come to understand each other better,
they have realized that each continues to retain many of the ways
in which Apostolic Tradition is maintained.
34. Both receive the Scriptures as a normative witness to the apostolic
faith. Both agree as well that the history of the Church after the
writing and formation of the New Testament canon belongs to the
Church's continuity in Apostolic Tradition, even though they have
different emphases in understanding the significance of that history.
Both find within this history many developments which, because they
are the work of the Holy Spirit, are normative for the Church. Both
affirm that the Gospel is embodied in the Tradition3
of the Church.
35. When Roman Catholics and Disciples evaluate earlier formulations
of doctrine, both are committed to continuity with the Church's
history, though in different ways — a significant difference which
requires further investigation. Both agree that doctrinal statements
never exhaust the meaning of the Word of God and that they may need
interpretation or completion by further formulations to be clear.
Both also agree that fresh doctrinal statements may be needed to
preserve the Gospel when it is endangered or to preach it in a new
36. Human memory can be deficient and selective because of finitude
and sin, and the pilgrim Church is affected by these limitations.
But both Roman Catholics and Disciples are agreed that the Holy
Spirit sustains the Church in communion with the apostolic community
because Christ promised that the Spirit ‘will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I have said to you' (Jn 14:26 NRSV).
The Spirit guides the Church to understand its past, to recall what
may have been forgotten, and to discern what renewal is needed for
the Gospel to be proclaimed effectively in every age and culture.
This underlines the, importance of reflection and study in the life
of the Church to keep alive the memory.
37. Continuity with the Apostolic Tradition calls for fresh understandings
or practices of discipleship, which the Church adopts in order to
transmit the same apostolic faith effectively in new times and places.
As the Church receives the Apostolic Tradition in different contexts
and circumstances, the Spirit enables it to hold fast to the apostolic
faith, and to discern authentic developments in its thought and
practice. The Holy Spirit guarantees that the Church shall not in
the end fail to witness faithfully to the divine plan.
38. Thus the Church not only remembers (in the biblical sense) what
was done in the past, the saving act in Jesus Christ. Neither does
it only remember what is promised in the age to come (cf. § 28).
At the very heart of the Church's memory, God's saving acts in the
past provide a foretaste of transformation so that the future breaks
in already to the present. Salvation seen from the perspective of
the Scriptures reaches out from the past into the future.
Gifts of the Spirit for the church
39. The Holy Spirit not only gives the Church that memory which
enables it to remain in the Apostolic Tradition, but is also present
in the Church leading Christians and the whole community of the
baptized deeper into the mystery of Christ. Both Disciples and Roman
Catholics recognize this as a constitutive gift of God to the Church.
Through the Holy Spirit the believer is drawn into union with the
love of Christ for his Father, for humanity and for the whole of
creation. The will of the believer is also led to unite itself with
the will of Christ in obedience to the Father. Thus the individual
believer is drawn into deeper communion with the movement of Christ's
self-offering, embodied in the Eucharist. This in turn becomes the
center of a life of witness to Christ.
40. A Christian receives the gift of faith within and for the communion
(koinonia) which is the Church. Hence, the sense of faith (sensus
Fidei) in the life of an individual Christian is a reflection of
the extent to which, by the same Spirit, each one shares in the
life of the ecclesial body as such; it becomes an expression of
the instinct for faith of the whole body. The inner dynamism of
the gift of faith — the power of the Holy Spirit which draws believers
into spiritual unity — sustains the interaction of the faith of
the individual and the faith of the community.
41. The Spirit gives a variety of gifts or charisms which enable
the Church as a whole to receive and hand on the Apostolic Tradition.
At the heart of these are the gifts appropriate to worship, particularly
in the celebration of the Lords Supper. In the act of celebrating
the Eucharist the whole community of the baptized is drawn together
by the Holy Spirit in a visible unity of faith, hope and love. Together
with the charism of the one who presides at the celebration, many
other charisms can be exercised in service of the Church in the
central action of its life. Then there are charisms of Christian
formation, such as the witness to the faith given by parents to
their children, and by those who teach in schools and congregations.
42. Moreover the memory of the apostolic faith is maintained in
lives lived according to the Gospel. The faithful have a sense of
care for all humankind, responsibility for their well-being, and
sharing in their suffering, sorrow and oppression as well as in
their joy, good fortune and liberation. The charisms which enable
the work of mercy — with the poor, the needy, the homeless, the
sick and the aged — recall the whole community to the Gospel imperative
43. In addition there are extraordinary gifts, which are found in
the lives of people who give vivid witness to the Gospel and capture
the imagination of the community of the baptized in such a way that
it is recalled to the Gospel and the Apostolic Tradition. These
gifts, like all gifts, must be tested in the Church for authenticity.
44. Within the mutuality and complementarity of the different charisms
which are given to and for the Church, there is a particular charism
given to the ordained ministry to maintain the community in the
memory of the Apostolic Tradition. Both Disciples and Roman Catholics
affirm that the Christian ministry exists to actualize, transmit,
and interpret with fidelity the Apostolic Tradition which has its
origin in the first generation. It also has a special responsibility
in serving and showing forth the unity of the Church. The intention
of the apostolic community in establishing ministries in other places
was initially to establish collaborators rather than to choose successors:
what began as an expansion of communion over distance became later
on an expansion over time. We have found this a helpful insight
in enabling us to affirm a common understanding of the importance
45. Although historically Disciples came from those traditions which
at the Reformation rejected episcopacy as the Reformers knew it
in the Roman Catholic Church, Disciples have always recognized that
the work of the ministry, shared in the local congregation by ordained
ministers and ordained elders, is essential to the being of the
Church and is a sign of continuity with the Apostolic Tradition.
Roman Catholics believe that the bishop, acting in collaboration
with presbyters, deacons and the whole community in the local church,
and in communion with the whole college of bishops throughout the
world united with the Bishop of Rome as its head, keeps alive the
apostolic faith in the local church so that it may remain faithful
to the Gospel4.
Both Disciples and Roman Catholics affirm that the whole Church
shares in the priesthood and ministry of Christ. They also affirm
that ordained ministers have the specific charism of re-presenting
Christ to the Church and that their ministries are expressions of
the ministry of Christ to the whole Church. They believe that God
has given to the Church all the gifts needed for the proclamation
of the Gospel; but this does not mean that every member has received
every charism or authority for doing so. Rather it is the corporate
shaping of the whole people of God by the Gospel which enables them
to hold fast to ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the
saints' (Jude 3, NRSV). The ordained ministry is specifically given
the charism for discerning, declaring and fostering what lies in
the authentic memory of the Church. In this process this charism
of the service of memory is in communion with the instinct for faith
of the whole body. Through this communion the Spirit guides the
46. We thus discover that our diversities are real but not all of
them are necessarily signs of division. Roman Catholics and Disciples
have more in common than might be expected after the exposition
of their differences. We are now sure that in confessing together
that the Church is communion, we are in agreement on a very crucial
issue, which is not isolated from many central issues of the faith.
We agree -- together with many other Christians — on important truths:
a person is saved by being introduced into this communion of believers,
described in the New Testament by images of the body of Christ,
the temple of God, the vine, the household of God;
— this communion is never given to the believer without the involvement
of other believers, some of them being the ministers of the Church,
having a specific responsibility for preaching the Word of God and
presiding at the celebration of the sacraments. Through the Word
and the sacraments the Church is the servant or instrument of God's
plan of salvation;
— this communion is ultimately with the apostolic community, whose
memory is constantly kept alive and made present, especially thanks
to the work of the ordained ministry, the witness of the holy and
committed members of the community and the expression of the mind
of the Church by all the members trying to be faithful to their
47. We therefore come to a very important agreement concerning the
nature and mission of the Church. The Church of God is that part
of humanity which through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit
responds to God's plan of salvation revealed and actualized in Jesus
Christ. Consequently it becomes the community of all those who in
Christ, by the gift of God, are bound into a communion with the
Father and with one another. Its members are called to live in such
a way that, in spite of their failures and their weakness, this
communion becomes visible and is constantly in search of a more
48. This visibility is realized especially in the celebration of
the Eucharist. There, gathered together and after having confessed
their faith, the baptized people receive the body and blood of Christ,
the Son of God who reconciled humanity to God in one body through
the cross. There they enter into communion with the saints and members
of the whole household of God. Moreover, what is celebrated at the
Eucharist has to be actualized in a life of common prayer and faith,
of faithfulness to the Gospel, of sharing the spiritual and even
material goods of the community, and of commitment to the will of
God that the saving work of Christ be extended as offer to all.
49. Participation in this communion begins through baptism and is
sustained in continuing eucharistic fellowship. The Holy Spirit
uses the Church as the servant by which the Word of God is kept
alive and constantly preached, the sacraments are celebrated, the
people of God are served by the ministers with responsibility for
oversight, and the authentic evangelical life is manifested through
the life of holy and committed members of Christ. This is why Disciples
and Roman Catholics agree that the Church is the company of all
the baptized, the community through which they are constantly kept
in the memory of the apostolic witness and nourished by the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is never celebrated and received by a member isolated
from an ecclesial community gathered around its ministers. The Church
is therefore at the same time the sign of salvation (to be saved
is to be in communion) and the community through which this salvation
50. By this communion — which is the Church — an effective sign
is given by God also to the world. This sign stands in contrast
to the divisions and hatred within humanity. Even if it is always
stamped by the deficiencies of its members, the Church of God demonstrates
that the division of humanity created by the corruption of the human
heart with its egoism and desire for possessions or power, has been
overcome through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. A
new life is made possible, the life of the children of God whose
bonds of relationship are a gift coming from the Father.
51. Moreover, because Christians come to know that God wants all
other human beings also to become members of Christ, they are drawn
to give themselves in living witness and service to humanity. This
service culminates when they commit themselves to the preaching
of the Gospel, being obedient to the command of Christ, their Lord.
The Church is in that way not only a sign of the new humanity God
wants but also an instrument the Holy Spirit uses in order to extend
salvation to all human situations and needs, in all places until
the end of history.
52. Hence, we are able to affirm gladly the traditional conviction
that the Church is at one and the same time an epiphany of the destiny
which God wills for all humanity and a means to achieve that destiny.
These inseparable functions of sign and instrument, epiphany and
means, are contained in the expression ‘the Church is the sacrament
of God's design,' as used in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
This phrase signifies that God realizes the plan of salvation in
and through the communion of all those who confess Jesus Christ
and live according to this confession. We know, indeed, that this
saving work is not limited to those who confess Christ explicitly,
but that the benefits of Christ's work are offered to all human
beings. In hope we expect that these benefits may be accepted by
many who do not fully confess the giver of their gifts. Nevertheless,
we do believe that the Church, by making visible God's reconciling
work and being the servant of God in the accomplishment of this
work, stands as a light on the mountain top, awakening the world
to a recognition of its true destiny. The communion that is the
Church allows people to witness what Christian faith confesses:
there is salvation and it comes from God through Christ.
53. We have not yet, indeed, discussed some of the most important
points which continue to divide us. For we believe that these issues
can be fairly and deeply treated only on the basis of the kind of
agreement we have reached in the document we are now publishing.
Moreover we are convinced that they are to be treated in conjunction
with the work of other bilateral ecumenical dialogues, which are
also struggling with them. They wilt be proposed for the agenda
of our future discussions. Amongst them four have a very specific
meaning for the visible unity of the Church:
a) First, our dialogue has made us aware of a point we need to consider
more deeply: even if we agree on the signification and function
of the Eucharist, we feel that we still have to discuss our traditional
teaching and practice concerning the presence of the Lord in the
celebration of the Supper, its sacrificial nature, the role of the
ordained minister and the role of the community. This is important,
given the emphasis that both Disciples and Roman Catholics put on
the weekly celebration of the Lords Supper and its link with the
visible unity of Christians.
b) A second issue is the way we understand the fundamental structure
of the Church gathered around the Eucharist and the Catholic tradition's
understanding of episcopacy — given through a sacrament — as the
institution necessary for an authentic Eucharist to be celebrated.
c) A third issue is the nature of the rule of faith in a changing
history. In what sense is ‘the faith which was once for all delivered
to the saints' expressed in the teaching of the Church throughout
d) Lastly, an issue which requires to be explored by all the churches
and communities in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church is the
primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the affirmation that it is founded
in the will of Christ for the Church.
54. These are difficult issues. Nevertheless we believe — after
these ten years of dialogue on the Church — that it will be possible
to clarify many misinterpretations (on both sides) and possibly
to discover ways of growing towards the kind of mutual metanoia
(repentance) and coming together which wilt allow very profound
communion in some of the most important gifts of the grace of God,
and make possible important and irreversible steps on our road towards
the full unity God intends.
Disciples of Christ
Dr Paul A. Crow. Jr Indianapolis,
Indiana, U.S.A. (Co-chair)
Dr M. Eugene Boring, Forth Worth, Texas, U.S.A. (1988-92)
The Revd Dr Bevis Byfield, Kingston, Jamaica
Dr Efefe Elondia Mbandaka, Zaire (1983-90)
Dr H. Jackson Forstman, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Dr Nadia Lahutsky, Forth Worth, Texas, U.S.A.
Dr Russel D. Legge, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (1983-90)
Dr W. Paulsell, Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A. (1986)
Dr C. Roy Stauffer, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A. (1987)
Dr Paul S. Stauffer, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. (1983-86)
Dr M. Jack Suggs, Forth Worth, Texas, U.S.A. (198387)
Dr William Tabbernee, Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.A. (1989-92)
Dr David M. Thompson, Cambridge, England, co-secretary
Dr Robert K. Welsh, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. (Staff
Most Revd Samuel E. Carter, SJ, Kingston, Jamaica (Co-chair)
The Most Revd Kevin Mc Namara , Dublin, Ireland (1983-87)
The Most Revd Basil Meeking, Christchurch, New Zealand
The Revd Michael Jackson, London, England (198892)
The Revd Dr Kilian McDonnell, OSB, Collegeville, Minnesota,
The Revd Dr John P. Meier, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
The Rt Revd Mgr John Mutiso-Mbinda, Vatican City (1986-92),
Dr Margaret O'Gara, Toronto, Canada
The Revd Dr J.M.R. Tillard, OP, Ottawa, Canada
Service 84 (1993/III-IV) 162-169]
The use of
a capital T follows the definition agreed at the Montreal
Faith and Order Conference in 1963: By the Tradition
is meant the Gospel itself, transmitted from generation to
generation in and by the Church, Christ himself present in
the life of the Church' (Report of the Fourth World Conference
on Faith and Order, para 39, p. 50).
Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, paragraph 22: Norman
P. Tanner (ed), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, (1990),