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      The Evangelical- Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission was a series of three meetings which took place over a period of seven years. The first was held at Venice in 1977, the second at Cambridge in 1982 and the third at Landévennec in France in 1984.

1) The Participants

      Those who took part in the dialogue were theologians and missiologists from many parts of the world. Their names are given in the Appendix. Six of us (three from each side) attended all three meetings; others were able to come to only one or two of them.
      The Evangelical participants were drawn from a number of churches and Christian organizations. They were not official representatives of any international body, however. For the evangelical movement has a broad spectrum, which includes evangelical denominations (both within and outside the World Council of Churches), evangelical fellowships (within mainline, comprehensive denominations), and evangelical parachurch agencies (specializing in tasks like Bible translation, evangelism,
1 cross-cultural mission, and Third World relief and development), which accept different degrees of responsibility to the Church.2
      It is not easy to give a brief account of the distinctive beliefs of evangelical Christians, since different churches and groups emphasize different doctrines. Yet all Evangelicals share a cluster of theological convictions which were recovered and reaffirmed by the 16th century Reformers. These include (in addition to the great affirmations of the Nicene Creed) the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the sufficiency of its teaching for salvation, and its supremacy over the traditions of the Church; the justification of sinners (i.e. their acceptance by God as righteous in his sight) on the sole ground of the sinbearing often called "substitutionary" — death of Jesus Christ, by God's free grace alone, apprehended by faith alone, without the addition of any human works; the inward work of the Holy Spirit to bring about the new birth and to transform the regenerate into the likeness of Christ; the necessity of personal repentance and faith in Christ ("conversion"); the Church as the Body of Christ, which incorporates all true believers, and all of whose members are called to ministry, some being "evangelists, pastors and teachers"; the "priesthood of all believers," who (without any priestly mediation except Christ's) all enjoy equal access to God and all offer him their sacrifice of praise and worship; the urgency of the great commission to spread the gospel throughout the world, both verbally in proclamation and visually in good works of love; and the expectation of the personal, visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ to save, to reign and to judge.
      The Roman Catholic participants, who spoke from the point of view of the official teaching of their Church, were named by the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. The existence of the Secretariat is evidence of the effective renewal of attitude towards other Christians, which has taken place among Roman Catholics as a result of the Second Vatican Council twenty years ago, and which is still having its effects. In that Council it was acknowledged that "Christ summons the Church, as she goes her pilgrim way, to that continual reformation of which she always has need, insofar as she is an institution of men here on earth."
3 As a result, Roman Catholics have been able to acknowledge joyfully "the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ."4 This same renewal turned the attention of Roman Catholics to the Scriptures in a new way, exhorting the Church "to move ahead daily towards a deeper understanding of the Sacred Scriptures" which "contain the Word of God and, since they are inspired, really are that word."5 And it led to a better expression of the relation between Scripture and tradition in communicating God's Word in its full purity. Here indeed are the elements which have enabled Roman Catholics to acknowledge common ground with other Christians, and to assume their own responsibility for overcoming divisions for the sake of the mission of God and the fullness of his glory.

2) The Background

      It is the will of God that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who Have himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:4-5) "there is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:12). Mission begins in the activity of God himself who sent his Son, and whose Son sent his Spirit. All who belong to God in Jesus Christ must share in this mission of God.
      A dialogue on mission between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics has been possible for two reasons. First, both constituencies have recently been concentrating their attention on evangelism. In July 1974 the evangelical International Congress on World Evangelization took place in Switzerland and issued the "Lausanne Covenant."
6 A few months later the Third General Assemble of the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops studied the same topic, and at their request Pope Paul VI issued in December 1975 his apostolic exhortation entitled Evangelii nuntiandi, or "Evangelization in the Modern World."7
      Secondly, a study of these two documents reveals a measure of convergence in our understanding of the nature of evangelism, as the following quotations show: "To evangelize is to spread the food news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures... Evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical biblical Christ as Savior and Lord...."
8 Again, witness must be "made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the lord Jesus... There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed."9

3) The Experience

      In our time there are many possible forms of dialogue. Some are undertaken with an immediate view to working for organic unity between the bodies which the participants represent. Others do not exclude this purpose, but begin from where they are with a more general purpose. Still others begin by stating that they do not envisage organic or structural unity but aim rather at an exchange of theological views in order to increase mutual understanding and to discover what theological ground they hold in common. ERCDOM has been a dialogue of the latter kind. It was not conceived as a step towards Church unity negotiations. Rather it has been a search for such common ground as might be discovered between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics as they each try to be more faithful in their obedience to mission. It was also undertaken quite consciously in the knowledge that there are still both disagreements and misrepresentations between Evangelicals ad Roman Catholics which harm our witness to the gospel, contradict our Lord's prayer for the unity of his followers, and need if possible to be overcome.
      During the three meetings friendships were formed, and mutual respect and understanding grew, as the participants learned to listen to one another and to grapple with difficult and divisive questions, as well as rejoicing in the discovery of some common understandings.
It was a demanding experience as well as a rewarding one. It was marked by a will to speak the truth, plainly, without equivocation, and in love. Neither compromise nor the quest for lowest common denominators had a place; a patient search for truth and a respect for each other's integrity did.

4) The Report

      This Report is in no sense an "agreed statement" but rather a faithful record of the ideas shared. It is not exhaustive, for more questions were touched on than could be described in this brief compass. Yet enough has been included to give a substantial idea of how the dialogue developed and to communicate something of it without creating misunderstandings or false expectations.
      An effort has been made to convey what went on at all three meetings, bearing in mind that in none was a complete expose given of most issues. ERCDOM was only a first step, even if not a negligible one.
      Our Report, as far as it goes, gives a description of some areas in which Evangelicals and Roman Catholics hold similar or common views, which we are able to perceive more clearly as we overcome the stereotypes and prejudiced ideas which we have of each other. In addition, it sets out some of the serious matters on which Evangelicals and Roman Catholics differ, but about which in the last seven years the participants in ERCDOM have begun to learn to speak and listen to each other.
      Although all those who participated in the three meetings contributed richly, the responsibility for the final form of the Report rests with those who were at Landévennec. Publication is under taken on the general endorsement of the 1984 participants, although it is not the kind of document to which each was asked to subscribe formally. Nevertheless it is their express hope that it may be a means of stimulating local encounters in dialogue between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Our Report is far from being definitive; the dialogue needs to be continued and developed.
      The participants in ERCDOM offer this Report to other Evangelicals and Roman Catholics as a sign of their conviction that fidelity to Jesus Christ today requires that we take his will for his followers with a new seriousness. He prayed for the truth, holiness, mission and unity of his people. We believe that these dimensions of the Church's renewal belong together. It is with this understanding that we echo his prayer for ourselves and each other:

"Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world... I pray... that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe..." (John 17:17-21).



  1. "Evangelism" and "evangelization" are used indiscriminately in this Report. The former is commoner among Evangelicals, the latter among Roman Catholics, but both words describe the same activity of spreading the gospel.

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  2. Given the diversity of the Evangelical constituency as well as the differences of understanding between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics the use of the word "Church" in this paper inevitably carries some ambiguity. Further conversations would be required before it would be possible to arrive at greater clarity and common terms of ecclesiological discourse.

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  3. Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio), 6 in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967).

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  4. Ibid., 4.

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  5. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum) 23, 24.

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  6. The Lausanne Covenant: An Exposition and Commentary by John Stott (World Wide Publications, 1975), Lausanne Occasional Paper no. 3.

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  7. Evangelization in the Modern World (Evangelii nuntiandi), Pope Paul VI (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975).

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  8. Lausanne Covenant, par. 4.

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  9. Evangelii nuntiandi, 22.

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