We, the representatives of two Christian traditions deeply divided
from each other historically, have been involved in a substantive
consultation that we hope will lead to improved relations in the
future. This experience for us has been momentous. We come from
strong and vital Christian communities. The Catholic Church is
the largest Christian communion in the world, with now over one
billion members. The Evangelical movement, with its roots in the
Reformation, is one of the most dynamic expressions of Christianity
today, showing rapid growth in many parts of the world. The World
Evangelical Alliance represents some 150 million from among more
than 200 million Evangelical Christians. Yet in spite of exceptions
over the centuries, from Zinzendorf and Wesley to Schaff and Congar,
both traditions have long lived in isolation from one another.
Our communities have been separated by different histories and
theologies as well as by unhelpful stereotypes and mutual misunderstandings.
This estrangement and misapprehension has occasioned hostility
and conflicts that continue to divide the Body of Christ in our
In recent decades, however, a considerable number of Catholics
and Evangelicals have been getting to know each other, and have
discovered in the process how much they have in common. This change
is due in part to situational factors: cultural and political
changes in the second half of the twentieth century, the growth
of democracy in countries which formerly had repressive, authoritarian
governments, the mixing of peoples and confessions in our increasingly
diverse cultures, the discovery of common concerns in the area
of ethics and in the struggle against secularism. In part, the
changing relations between Evangelical and Catholic communities
are due to internal developments, for example, in Catholicism,
as a result of the Second Vatican Council and, among Evangelicals,
the impact of the Lausanne Covenant. Finally, new attitudes
were fostered by far-sighted individuals in both traditions, together
with a significant number of initiatives designed to promote greater
appreciation and understanding of each other. Billy Graham's ministry
stands out here. Most importantly, there is a growing recognition
in both our traditions that the spread of the Gospel is hindered
by our continuing divisions.
As a result of these changes in our world and in our churches,
many Catholics and Evangelicals have begun talking to and co-operating
with each other, including praying together. In the process, they
have not only become friends; they have begun to discover each
other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. It might be helpful
to note some of these formal initiatives, which are described
extensively in the appendix.
The first international dialogue between Catholics and Evangelicals
began with participants from both sides exploring the subject
of mission from 1978 to 1984. This resulted in a 1985 report on
their discussions. This international dialogue was sponsored,
on the Catholic side, by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian
Unity. Evangelical participants, like John Stott,
while drawn from a number of churches and Christian organizations,
were not official representatives of any international body.
The present consultations represent an important development
in our relationship. For the first time these meetings were sponsored
by international bodies on both sides: the World Evangelical
Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity. This initiative eventually resulted in formal consultations
beginning in Venice in 1993, and continuing at Tantur, Jerusalem
in 1997, Williams Bay, Wisconsin in 1999, Mundelein, Illinois
in 2001, and Swanwick, England in 2002.
Initial meetings led us eventually to focus on two general areas:
the church and her mission. As the discussion continued, it became
clear that a common reflection on the biblical notion of koinonia
would help us to clarify some convergences and differences between
us on the church (Part I). The focus on mission evolved into reflection
on evangelization and the related issues of religious freedom,
proselytism and common witness in light of koinonia (Part
The purpose of these consultations has been to overcome misunderstandings,
to seek better mutual understanding of each other's Christian
life and heritage, and to promote better relations between Evangelicals
and Catholics. This paper is a result of the first series of discussions
and deals with a limited number of issues.
In these conversations, which were conducted in a very cordial
and open atmosphere, each side has expressed clearly and candidly
its own theological convictions and tradition, and listened as
the other side did the same. Together they sought to discern whether
there were convergences or even some agreements on theological
issues over which Evangelicals and Catholics have long been divided,
and also on what issues divisions clearly persist.
This consultation presents here the product of its work to the
sponsoring bodies, with gratitude for the support they have given
to this project.
We hope this study will be fruitful and serve the cause of the
Gospel and the glory of our Lord.
The Status of this Report
The Report published here is the work
of an International Consultation between the Catholic Church
and the World Evangelical Alliance. It is a study document
produced by participants in this Consultation. The authorities
who appointed the participants have allowed the Report to
be published so that it may be widely discussed. It is not
an authoritative declaration of either the Catholic Church
or of the World Evangelical Alliance, who will both also
evaluate the document.
CATHOLICS, EVANGELICALS, AND KOINONIA
A. The Church as koinonia (Fellowship, Communion)
(1) The use of koinonia brings an important biblical
term to bear on ecclesiology, as it suggests those things that
bind Christians together. Koinonia is undoubtedly "an early
and important aspect of the church and its unity."1
The biblical word koinonia can be translated in various
ways: "fellowship," "belonging," "communion," "participation,"
"partnership," or "sharing in." Evangelicals often use the term
"fellowship," while Catholics frequently use the term "communion."
1. New Testament "Fellowship"
(2) In the Pauline writings, the term koinonia often
refers to the relationship of Christians to one another, grounded
in their relationship to the divine persons. Paul tells the Corinthian
Christians: "You were called into the fellowship of his [God's]
Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Co 1:9). He speaks of "the grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship
of the Holy Spirit" (2 Co 13:14). Elsewhere he tells his readers
that he received "the right hand of fellowship" from James, Cephas,
and John (Gal 2:9). On another occasion he warns the Corinthians
against having fellowship with unbelievers, asking the rhetorical
question: "What fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Co 6:14).
Partnership appears to be the meaning in Phil 1: 5-7.
(3) The term koinonia occurs also in Acts 2:42, where
it again has the meaning of fellowship: "And they devoted themselves
to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, and to the breaking
of bread and the prayers." It is debatable exactly what type of
fellowship Luke here has in mind, but it is evidently some kind
of association among believers, received from Christ through solidarity
with the apostles. It means the sharing of material goods in 2
Co 8:4, 9:13.
(4) The Johannine writings reinforce this sense of koinonia
as fellowship. The author of the first epistle speaks of proclaiming
what he has seen "that you may have fellowship with us; and our
fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1
Jn 1:3). Again in verses 7-8 he refers to fellowship with the
Son and among Christians themselves. The fellowship with God in
Christ is evidently the basis for the fellowship with other believers,
all members in the Body of Christ. They are to be one as the Father
and Son in the trinity are one (Jn 17:11,21).
2. Various Emphases in New Testament Interpretation
(5) For both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics communion with
Christ involves a transformative union whereby believers are "koinonoi
of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the
world by lust" (2 Pt 1:4). Catholics tend to interpret koinonia
in this passage to mean a participation in the divine life and
"nature," while Evangelicals tend to interpret koinonia
as covenant companionship, as it entails escaping moral corruption
and the way of the world. According to many eastern Fathers of
the church, the believer's participation in the life of Christ
and the church leads to the process of the believer's divinization
(theosis, deificatio). Evangelicals have reservations about
the notion of theosis: the word is not found in the Bible
and it suffers, they feel, from too much ambiguity. It appears
to suggest that believers shall possess the essence of deity --a
meaning which Catholic doctrine too denies. Evangelicals agree
that the redemptive grace on the one hand restores the original
godlikeness that was marred and defaced by human sin (Col 3:10),
and on the other hand that the Spirit transforms believers into
the likeness of the Second Adam, "from glory to glory," (1 Co
15: 48, 49; 2 Co 3:18), a process that will reach completion only
when Christ, the Lord and Saviour, comes from heaven (Phil 3:20-21;
1 Thes 5: 23-24).
(6) Catholics believe that sacraments are Christ's instruments
to effect the transformative union with the divine nature (1 Co
12:12-13, where they see water-baptism, and 10:16-17, Eucharist).
In passages such as these they hear other (Catholics would say
deeper), more sacramental and participatory connotations in the
word "koinonoi" than are expressed by the word "fellowship."
Many Evangelicals consider the sacraments to be dominical means
of grace or "ordinances" which are "visible words" that proclaim
(kataggellete, 1 Co 11:26) or are signs and seals of the
grace of union with Christ--grace to be received and enjoyed on
the sole condition of personal faith.
3. Perspectives on "communio sanctorum"
(7) While the earliest rendering of the term communio sanctorum
in the Apostles' Creed has been translated as "communion of holy
persons" (saints), this language has been translated as a reference
to "holy things" (sacraments).2 However, the doctrinal
significance of communio sanctorum (koinonia ton
hagion) was not relegated to one interpretation only. Later
western appropriation of the concept of divinization emphasized
it as a participation in the Eucharist. Evangelicals prefer to
translate communio sanctorum as "the fellowship of holy
persons" or "of saints," the "saints" being all those who truly
belong to Jesus Christ by faith; they understand "communion" as
the bond that binds all Christians in all generations.
(8) Evangelicals, historically, have not given the same place
to the sacraments nor connected sanctification so directly with
them as Catholics have. They maintain the "forensic" (referring
to the courts of law) meaning of justification, and tend to prefer
the vocabulary of drama and law. The Bible, as they read it, is
more favorable to categories such as covenant-breaking and covenant-renewal,
condemnation and acquittal, enmity and reconciliation, than to
the category of participation in being. But they do affirm with
the apostle Paul that anyone who is in Christ is a "new creation"
(2 Co 5:17; Gal 6:15). The Holy Spirit effects a radical change,
a new birth from above.
(9) Catholics and Evangelicals anticipate perfect communion
in the Kingdom to be ushered in with the final coming of Jesus.
In the light of this expectation, Catholics and Evangelicals should
look to a deeper communion in this world, even if they disagree,
between and among themselves, on the means by which this might
be achieved, and on the extent to which it can be realized prior
to the return of Christ. Since the biblical texts are authoritative
for both Catholics and Evangelicals, they provide a solid foundation
for our conversations. The growing familiarity with biblical categories
on both sides, combined with recent reinterpretations of sacramental
theology, suggests that koinonia continues to be a promising
topic for further explorations in our conversations.
B. Our Respective Understandings of the Church and of Other
1. Recent Developments
(10) In the Second Vatican Council, Catholics elaborated their
distinctive understanding of the nature of the Church and also
their relationships to other Christians. Evangelicals also have
explored this area in major conferences in recent decades on the
topic of missions. It will be useful to describe the views in
the two communities, before pointing out the implications for
(11) The Second Vatican Council marked a development in the
ecclesiological self-understanding of the Catholic Church. Rather
than positing a simple identity between the Church of Christ and
itself, Lumen Gentium teaches that "the Church of Christ
…subsists in the Catholic Church"(LG 8).3 The
Evangelical movement on the other hand, received its characteristic
modern shape from the influence of the eighteenth and nineteenth
century revivals (preceded by pietism and Puritanism): these revivals
crossed denominational boundaries and relativized their importance.
From the Roman Catholic side the recognition of the "others" as
belonging to Christ, takes the form of an emphasis on truly Christian
elements and endowments in their communities; and from the Evangelical
side, on the acknowledged presence of true believers indwelt by
Christ's Spirit among Catholics.
2. Catholic Views
(12) Vatican II in its Constitution on the Church (Lumen
Gentium) speaks of the bonds between Catholics and other Christians
in these terms:
The unique Church of Christ…constituted and organized in the
world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is
governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in union
with that successor, although many elements of sanctification
and of truth can be found outside her visible structure (LG
The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those
who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though
they do not possess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve
unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are
many who honor sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief
and of action, and who show a true religious zeal. They lovingly
believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, Son of God and
Likewise, we can say that in some real way they are joined with
us in the Holy Spirit, for to them also He gives His gifts and
graces, and is thereby operative among them with His sanctifying
power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding
of their blood (LG 15).
(13) In its Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio),
Vatican II brings the concept of ecclesial elements into correlation
with that of koinonia. The decree illustrates the Catholic
perspective on full communion. The Holy Spirit, it affirms, "brings
about that marvelous communion of the faithful and joins them
together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the
Church's unity" (UR 2). The Decree goes on to say that
the Spirit brings about and perfects this wonderful union by means
of the faithful preaching of the Gospel, the administration of
the sacraments, and the loving exercise of pastoral authority
(cf. UR 2).
(14) In the following paragraph the Decree on Ecumenism
clarifies relationships with other communities and broaches the
notion of "imperfect communion," which is so vital for contemporary
interchurch relations. The Decree states that some Christians
have become separated from full communion with the Catholic Church
but remain in a real, though imperfect, communion with it because
"some, even very many, of the most significant elements or endowments
which together go to build up and give life to the church herself
can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church:
the written word of God; the life of grace, faith, hope, and charity,
along with other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit and visible
elements" (UR 3).
(15) In a later section of the Decree on Ecumenism the
same notion of imperfect communion is applied specifically to
Protestant communities. The Council here speaks of belief in the
Holy Trinity, and of confession of Jesus Christ as God and Lord,
and as sole Mediator between God and man (cf. UR 20). It
then goes on to mention love and veneration for Holy Scripture,
affirming that "the sacred utterances are precious instruments
in the mighty hand of God for attaining that unity which the Savior
holds out to all men" (UR 21). Baptism properly conferred
"constitutes a sacramental bond of unity linking all who have
been reborn by means of it…But baptism, of itself, is only a beginning,
a point of departure, for it is wholly directed toward the acquiring
of fullness of life in Christ" (UR 22). Pope John Paul
II reaffirms the teaching of Vatican II on the "many elements
of sanctification and truth" in other Christian communities and
on "the communion, albeit imperfect, which exists between them
and the Catholic Church" (UUS 11).
(16) All of these factors give concreteness to the use of the
concept of koinonia by Roman Catholics. They make it clear
that the ecclesial elements in question find expression in acts
of faith, hope, and charity. The degree of communion can not be
measured by outward and visible means alone because communion
depends on the reality of life in the Spirit.
3. Evangelical Views
(17) Evangelicals similarly emphasize that the most important
bond is the life of the Spirit which flows from union with Christ.
This bond is created when the Gospel is received in faith and
is foundational for the visible expression of the oneness or koinonia
of all Christians. For Evangelicals the visibility of the church
is subordinate to this primary truth. The Gospel of Jesus Christ:
An Evangelical Celebration confesses:
All Christians are called to unity in love and unity in truth.
As Evangelicals who derive our very name from the Gospel, we
celebrate this great good news of God's saving work in Jesus
Christ as the true bond of Christian unity, whether among organized
churches and denominations or in the many transdenominational
cooperative enterprises of Christians together.
The Bible declares that all who truly trust in Christ and his
Gospel are sons and daughters of God through grace, and hence
are our brothers and sisters in Christ.4
As the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 notes:
World evangelization requires the whole church to take the
whole Gospel to the whole world. The church is at the very center
of God's cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading
the Gospel. But a church which preaches the cross must itself
be marked by the cross. It becomes a stumbling block to evangelism
when it betrays the Gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a
genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things
including promotion and finance. The church is the community
of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be
identified with any particular culture, social or political
system, or human ideology (Jn 17:18; 20:21; Mt 28:19,20; Acts
1:8; 20:27; Eph 1:9, 10; 3:9-11; Gal. 6:14, 17; 2 Co 6:3,4;
2 Tim 2:19-21; Phil 1:27) (Lausanne 6).
Evangelicals adhere to the Reformation doctrine of the "invisible
church" (though with varying degrees of emphasis), without diminishing
the importance of the visible church, as it is implied in the
The one, universal church is a transnational, transcultural,
trans-denominational and multi-ethnic family of the household
of faith. In the widest sense, the church includes all the redeemed
of all the ages, being the one body of Christ extended throughout
time as well as space. Here in the world, the church becomes
visible in all local congregations that meet to do together
the things that according to Scripture the church does (Amsterdam
(18) Evangelicals insist (as do Roman Catholics) that disciplinary
and doctrinal criteria should be used for expressions in ecclesial
life of the unity we have in Christ. "Church discipline, biblically
based and under the direction of the Holy Spirit is essential
to the well being and ministry of God's people."5 In
a world and in churches marred by human failure, church discipline
may demand the curtailing of concrete forms of fellowship even
in cases where offenders against the apostolic teaching are acknowledged
as brothers or sisters (cf. 2 Thes 3:14-15). This applies to deviations
in all spheres of life, both in the confession of faith as well
as in behavior, which cannot be ultimately separated. Some Evangelicals
hold that the concrete possibilities of fellowship depend on the
degrees of agreement on the apostolic testimony as handed down
in the New Testament.
(19) The Manila Affirmations depict the resulting attitudes
among Evangelicals today:
Our reference to "the whole church" is not a presumptuous
claim that the universal church and the evangelical community
are synonymous. For we recognize that there are many churches
which are not part of the evangelical movement. Evangelical
attitudes to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches differ
widely. Some Evangelicals are praying, talking, studying Scripture
and working with these churches. Others are strongly opposed
to any form of dialogue or cooperation with them. All are aware
that serious theological differences between us remain. Where
appropriate, and so long as biblical truth is not compromised,
cooperation may be possible in such areas as Bible translation,
the study of contemporary theological and ethical issues, social
work and political action. We wish to make it clear, however,
that common evangelism demands a common commitment to the biblical
Gospel (Manila 9).
4. What of the Church Do We Recognize in One Another?
(20) We as Catholics and Evangelicals share Sacred Scripture6
and belief in its inspiration by the Holy Spirit. We affirm
the unique mediatorial role of Christ, his incarnation, his death
and resurrection for our salvation. We affirm together our faith
in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are both able
to pray the Lord's Prayer and confess the Apostles' and Nicene
Creeds.7 We affirm the Gospel call to conversion, to
a disciplined life in the grace of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate
promise of eternal reward. We recognize a Christian responsibility
for service and the promotion of justice in the world. We share
a common hope of Christ's return, as judge and redeemer, to consummate
our salvation. We can commemorate together those who have witnessed
by their blood to this common faith and now celebrate full communion
before the face of our divine Savior.
(21) One of the results of interchurch cooperation and dialogue
has been a greater appreciation by separated Christians of one
another. (A gradual move towards a greater recognition of the
ecclesial status of other Christian communities marks modern and
contemporary developments). For centuries, in ways heavily influenced
by polemics and religious wars, the identification of and the
incorporation into the true church were simplistically considered
to be an all-or-nothing affair. One was either in the true church
or in a false institution or a sect. Either one was a member in
the full sense of the word, or one was outside of the church and
deprived of all hope of salvation. Yet the awareness of spiritual
complexity was not entirely repressed. The Roman Catholic Church
maintained the validity of the baptism performed by heretics and
also acknowledged a "baptism of desire." The sixteenth century
reformers did not deny the presence of elements of the true church
in Roman Catholicism. Though at times Luther spoke of the pope
as anti-Christ, he recognized remnants of the church in the Roman
Communion. Calvin could write of his Roman Catholic opponents,
"these muddlers will labor to no avail as they deck out their
synagogue with the title church," yet he acknowledges traces (vestigia),
remnants (reliquias), marks (symbola), and signs
(signa) of the church under the papacy; churches in the
Roman Communion may be called churches "to the extent that the
Lord wonderfully preserves in them a remnant of his people however
woefully dispersed and scattered." And early proponents of religious
toleration were found among the extremely diverse groups often
referred to as the "Radical Reformation." Though Anabaptists were
painfully persecuted on all sides, Calvin exercised a nuanced
judgment on their doctrine; later they benefited from the protection
of such a prelate as the Prince-Bishop of Basel.
5. A Common Challenge
(22) In this section, we have come to recognize, with
the help of God's Spirit, the koinonia with the life of
the Trinity that both of our communities enjoy. We see it, therefore,
as incumbent upon both of us to move from this singular condition
of unity with the life of the Trinity into an experienced unity
with one another. To that end we need to take the actions which
will move us from this rediscovery to forge the ecclesial bonds
that will express this already bestowed unity. If God has not
been dealing with us as if we were apart from Him, why should
we continue to live as if we were apart from one another?
C. Some Dimensions of the Church
1. Origins of the Church
(23) Evangelicals and Catholics both see in the Pentecost event
the emergence of the church of the new covenant (Acts 2). The
presence of persons from every nation at Pentecost represents
the universal mission of the Church. They agree that this church
is built on the foundation of the prophet and apostles, with Christ
as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). They recognize in the evangelizing
mission of the apostles the founding of local churches. The communion
of local churches in the New Testament was served by the ministry
of the apostles and by the meeting of the Council of Jerusalem
(Acts 15). Support of one another, letters of recommendation,
the collections for other churches, and mutual hospitality characterize
this communion among churches. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics
recognize the importance of subsequent developments in the life
of the church, but give different weight and appreciation to these
2. The Church Local and Universal
a. Evangelical and Catholic Perspectives
(24) For Evangelicals today the "local church" designates the
congregation in a particular place. For Catholics a "local" or
"particular" church refers to a diocese, composed of a number
of parishes, with a bishop at the center, assisted by his presbyters
and other ministers of pastoral service to the faithful for the
sake of the Gospel.
(25) Catholics see the work of the Holy Spirit in a number of
significant developments in the early Church. These include the
understanding of bishops as successors to the apostles; the emergence
of the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon; the clarification
of the apostolic faith especially by ecumenical councils and the
universal creeds; and the gradual acknowledgement of the effective
leadership of the bishop of Rome within the whole Church. Even
from early times, the Bishop of Rome had a prominent role in fostering
the communion of local churches over which bishops presided, the
initial expressions of a primacy that developed over the centuries.
Since Vatican II there has been greater stress on the mutual relationship
between the local churches and the church of Rome.
(26) For their part, Evangelicals are overwhelmingly found in
Protestant and Pentecostal churches, which have generally placed
primary emphasis on local congregations: the place in which the
word of God is proclaimed, the sacraments are administered, and
God's people are gathered. Evangelicals live in a variety of church
structures. Churches whose origin lies in the "magisterial" Reformation
(e.g., Lutheran, and Reformed) as well as Anglicans and Methodists,
have a strong sense of the universality of the church in time
and space, but the way they function stresses the regional or
national body and, for example, gives significance to regional
or national synods. Nearly all other churches have espoused congregationalism
which concentrates responsibility in the local community. This
community is the concrete embodiment of the koinonia of
the Spirit. It is the locus of spiritual life, mutual upbuilding
through the diversity of gifts, and training for service in the
world. The free churches express solidarity through international
agencies or alliances, denominational or interdenominational.
Anabaptists in particular have had a strong tradition of community
life; a vigilant discipline makes the assembly into a closely
knit family of faith. Throughout history all these churches have
had to fight divisive tendencies and, in the context of secularization,
the destructive influences of individualism. The Lausanne Covenant
candidly acknowledges: "We confess that our testimony has sometimes
been marred by sinful individualism and needless duplication.
We pledge ourselves to seek a deeper unity in truth, worship,
holiness and mission" (Lausanne 7).
(27) Whereas Catholic ecclesiology reserves certain sacramental
functions to bishops who are understood to have received the fullness
of the sacrament of orders, most Evangelical churches concentrate
leadership more specifically in the ministry of the "pastor,"
whose role is considered to be that of the episkopos/presbyteros
of New Testament times. (The pastor may be the "teaching elder"
in association with the "ruling elders" of the church or parish,
1 Tim 5:17). Other Evangelicals, even among a few free churches,
have distinct ministries of oversight, but the difference is slight:
the bishop or superintendent is charged with administrative tasks,
but is not considered to have particular sacramental roles, a
concept foreign to the Evangelical interpretation of ministry.
(28) Global fellowship among Evangelicals is typically expressed
by means of loose networks of world-wide associations (among which
the W.E.A. may lay claim to best-grounded representative legitimacy)
and parachurch organizations (such as the International Fellowship
of Evangelical Students). These entities provide valuable channels
of communication and tools for cooperation.
(29) On the Catholic side, Vatican II reemphasizes the key importance
of the local church (diocese) as the place where the word is preached
and the sacraments are administered. The church reveals herself
most clearly when the people are gathered about the altar under
the presidency of the bishop, with the assistance of the other
clergy (cf. SC 41; and also LG 26). At every Eucharist
the unity of the whole church is indicated by the presider's expression
of the union with the local bishop, other bishops, and especially
the bishop of Rome as the center of the whole communion.8
The bishops in national and regional conferences are called upon
to represent their particular churches. Catholics speak of the
universal church, like the regional church, as a communion of
particular churches under their respective bishops and in communion
with the bishop of Rome. They recognize, however, that the Church
of Christ is not exclusively identified with the Catholic Church
(cf. LG 8).
b. Convergences and Differences Between Catholics and
(30) While certainly not eliminating the differences with evangelical
Protestantism, these recent developments in Catholic ecclesiology
facilitate mutual understanding. On the national and regional
levels, Catholic Episcopal Conferences and Synods of
Oriental Catholic Churches are able to enter into conversations
with national and regional Evangelical churches, alliances and
organizations. Also, diocesan bishops are able to relate to the
regional evangelical officials as their counterparts, even if
they are not bishops. There is a certain convergence with the
renewed emphasis of Catholics on local church and of Evangelicals
on worldwide fellowship.
(31) Catholics speak of a reciprocity between the universal
and the particular church, but they do not view the universal
church as a federation of local churches. There is a sense in
which Catholics can admit the priority of the local church since,
in the words of Vatican II: "In and from such individual churches
there comes into being the one and only Catholic Church" (LG
23). But to avoid misunderstanding, the Council also affirms that
each particular church is "fashioned after the model of the universal
church" (ibid.). The biblical evidence, as interpreted
in Catholic theology, indicates that the church originated as
a single community, into which people are incorporated by faith
(32) Evangelicals understand the church to be called into being
by the Word (creatura verbi). The Word is revealed
in Christ, written in Scripture, and received through hearing.
The Word calls forth faith and a community of faith in time and
space, a visible church. But final judgment belongs to God as
to believers and unbelievers within the visible church. God knows
his own. "Here in the world, the church becomes visible in all
local congregations that meet to do together the things that according
to Scripture the church does. Christ is the head of the church.
Everyone who is personally united to Christ by faith belongs to
his body and by the Spirit is united with every other true believer
in Jesus" (Amsterdam 9).
(33) Evangelicals, like Catholics, recognize the value of worldwide
fellowship, but because of different theological presuppositions
and different interpretations of certain biblical passages, they
have a different view of the relationship between the universal
church and local churches. Evangelicals understand by "universal
church" all those everywhere and in all ages who believe and trust
in Christ for salvation. "All" includes believing Roman Catholics.
Evangelicals have made use of Luther's distinction between the
church invisible and the church visible. They affirm the universal
church whose bond of unity, the Spirit of Christ, is invisible
(Eph 4:3-4); they stress incorporation by "faith alone," a faith
by which all share in the gift of the Spirit (Gal 3:2). Christ,
however, also willed the founding of visible churches into which
people are incorporated by (water) baptism. While primarily local,
these congregations may seek federations and alliances as means
to express the universal character of the church's nature and
(34) The visible structural and organizational manifestations
of the church are shaped by particular historical situations,
and can change. In the eyes of most Evangelicals the Bible provides
no rigid pattern for organizing the church in every time and place.
They find in the New Testament a considerable degree of variety
in models of ministry and church order. In distinction from Catholic
ecclesiology, Evangelicals thus affirm a variety of forms of church
order, but these differences do not impede fellowship or membership
in the invisible church.
(35) Most Evangelicals agree that the universal church, not
being a visible institution, is concretely expressed in the visible
churches in particular times and places, and the translocal bonds
they cultivate. They acknowledge that the correspondence between
visible and invisible is not perfect. For example, "false brethren"
may be found (Gal 2:4) who do not really belong (1 Jn 2:19). While
the relationship between membership in the visible and invisible
church, and baptism varies among Evangelicals, these differences
do not hamper fellowship and collaboration. Visible communities
have been endowed by Christ with institutions so that they may
build themselves up and fulfill their mission in the world.
3. The Combination of the Personal and Institutional in
a. An Ordered Community of Persons
(36) In the New Testament witness, Evangelicals and Catholics
recognize an ordered community of persons, sharing a common faith
and mission, given leadership, under Christ, by the apostles (1
Co 11-14; Rom 12; Eph 4). We recognize that there are differentiated
ministries articulated in the epistles (1 Pt 5; 1 Tim 3; Titus),
though we value them differently, and make different judgments
as to their continuity in the contemporary church. However, we
both affirm order and discipline as a framework of ecclesial communion
(1 Co 14:33, 40).
(37) The idea of the church as communion has emerged from a
return to a rich vein of biblical and patristic material. It has
also been influenced by more personalist approaches in the modern
world, against exaggerated forms of institutionalism and individualism.
Sociologists have long distinguished between society and community.
In early twentieth-century ecclesiology this gave rise to a dualism
between a church of law and a church of love. Pius XII, in his
encyclical on the Mystical Body, taught that this opposition does
not obtain in the church, which is both a mystical union and an
b. Catholic Views
(38) Vatican II in its Constitution on the Church, follows essentially
the teaching of Pius XII on this matter. It describes the church
as a single interlocking reality ("unam realitatem complexam"
[LG 8]), that is both visible and invisible, mystical and
hierarchical. But for the Council the visible dimension serves
the invisible dimension of the Church. The church is divinely
endowed with doctrines, sacraments, and ministries for the purpose
of bringing about and signifying a supernatural communion of life,
love, and truth among the members (cf. LG 14, 18, 20, 21).
The Council presents the church itself as a sacrament (LG
(39) Vatican II's move toward a more collegial ecclesiology
shows a greater emphasis on the personal. Whereas Vatican I spoke
of the pope as exercising jurisdiction over the other bishops
of the Catholic communion, Vatican II clarifies this earlier teaching
by saying that bishops must be in "hierarchical communion" with
the pope in order to exercise their powers of teaching and shepherding
their flocks (cf. LG 22; CD 5). The concept of "hierarchical
communion" does not eliminate the juridical aspect but requires
government through dialogue and consensus rather than command.
c. Evangelical Views
(40) In general, Evangelicals hold that the church is
primarily a community of persons and only secondarily an institution.
Abraham Kuyper, for instance, declares: The church "is not a salvific
agency that would supply grace as medicine, not a mystical order
that would magically act on lay people. She is nothing else than
believing, confessing, persons."11 The Lausanne
Covenant of 1974 asserts: "The church is the community of
God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified
with any particular culture, social or political system or human
ideology" (Lausanne 6). However, most Evangelicals emphatically
maintain the requirement of order and discipline and affirm the
institutional dimension of church life.
d. Some Mutual Observations
(41) Catholics and Evangelicals experience a convergence in
the understanding of the way that order and discipline serve the
koinonia of the church. Catholics have begun to reemphasize
the importance of the personal in understanding the church. Evangelicals
show an increasing appreciation of visible expressions of unity
in the life of the church beyond the bounds of their own denomination.
Such a convergence in our understanding of biblical koinonia
offers promise for a continuation of the dialogue.
D. Preparing for a Different Future
(42) There are, then, differences between the convictions of
Catholics and Evangelicals. These differences, however, do not
amount to simple opposition and have been fruitfully examined
in our conversations. Our mutual understanding has opened avenues
for further dialogue.
(43) As we complete these reflections we realize again the impact
that our divisions has made on people that we serve. It is not
possible to reverse history, but it is possible to prepare for
a different future.
(44) We realize the need for a spirit of repentance before God
because we have not made sufficient efforts to heal the divisions
that are a scandal to the Gospel. We pray that God grant us a
spirit of metanoia. We need to continue to study and face
issues which have separated us. We need to examine also the practices
that uncritically continue the biases of the past.
(45) Could we not ask ourselves whether we sufficiently understand
the levels of unity that we already share? For example, during
the Mass, when Catholics hear the words of the canon: "to strengthen
in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth, your servant Pope…,
our bishop …, and all the bishops with the clergy and the entire
people your Son has gained for you", do they understand that among
those whom the "Son has gained" for the Father, are the Christians
from whom they are separated and with whom, since Christ also
redeemed them, they share deep bonds of Christian life? And when
Evangelicals intercede for the life, mission, and unity of "the
Church", do they genuinely understand this Church to include Catholics?
(46) In a spirit of humility, we bring our concerns and our
hopes to the Lord.
CATHOLICS, EVANGELICALS, AND
EVANGELIZATION IN LIGHT OF KOINONIA
(47) We now turn to issues of evangelization, proselytism,
and religious freedom to explore them in the context of a theology
of koinonia. In doing this we have learned from some of
the insights of other dialogues on these issues and have built
(48) Evangelicals and Catholics agree that every Christian has
the right and obligation to share and spread the faith. "It is
contrary to the message of Christ, to the ways of God's grace
and to the personal character of faith that any means be used
which would reduce or impede the freedom of a person to make a
basic Christian commitment" (B 34). Since evangelization is a
focus of this section, we can now indicate briefly how Catholics
and Evangelicals understand this responsibility.
A. Our Respective Views on Evangelization/Evangelism
1. A Catholic View
(49) Catholics view Evangelization in the context of the one
Mission of the Church. In this regard, "evangelization is a complex
process involving many elements as, for example, a renewal of
human nature, witness, public proclamation, wholehearted acceptance
of, and entrance into, the community of the church, the adoption
of the outward signs and of apostolic works" (EN 24).
(50) "Evangelization will always contain, as the foundation,
the center and the apex of its whole dynamic power, this explicit
declaration: In Jesus Christ …salvation is offered to every human
person as the gift of the grace and mercy of God Himself" (EN
27; cf. RM 44). It involves proclamation of this good
news, aiming at Christian conversion of men and women (cf.
RM 44-46). But it involves also efforts "to convert both the
individual consciences of men and their collective consciences,
all the attitudes in which they are engaged and, finally, their
lives and the whole environment which surrounds them" (EN
18). Thus "evangelization is to be achieved…in depth, going to
the very center and roots of life. The Gospel must impregnate
the culture and the whole way of life of man…" (EN 20).
Through inculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in
different cultures, "transmits to them her own values, at the
same time taking the good elements that already exist in them
and renewing them from within" (RM 52; cf. EN 20).
(51) There is a diversity of activities in the Church's one
mission according to the different circumstances in which
it is carried out. Looking at today's world from the viewpoint
of evangelization, we can distinguish three situations. (a) People,
groups and socio-cultural contexts in which Christ and his Gospel
are not known. In such a context Catholics speak of mission ad
gentes. (b) Christian communities with adequate and solid
Ecclesial structures; they are fervent in their faith and in Christian
living, in which participation in the sacraments is basic (cf.
EN 47). In these communities the church carries out her
activities and pastoral care. ©) The intermediate situation,
for example, in countries with ancient Christian roots, where
entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the
faith. In this case what is needed is a new evangelization or
a "re-evangelization". The boundaries between these three "are
not clearly definable, and it is unthinkable to create barriers
between them or to put them into water-tight compartments" (RM
34). There is a growing interdependence which exists between
these various saving activities in the church.
2. An Evangelical View
(52) For Evangelicals, the heart and core of mission
is proclamation. However, it is the core, not the totality of
the Church mission within the divine Plan of redemption. The Lausanne
Covenant refers to this comprehensive mission as "evangelization"
(Lausanne, Introduction) and places it within a trinitarian
framework: "We affirm our belief in the one eternal God, Creator
(Is 40:28) and Lord of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
(Mt 28:19), who governs all things according to the purpose of
his will (Eph 1:1). He has been sending forth a people for himself
(Acts 15:14), and sending his people back into the world (Jn 17:18)
to be his servants and witnesses, for the extension of his kingdom,
the building up of Christ's body, and the glory of his name (Eph
4:12)" (Lausanne 1).
(53) The Lausanne Covenant describes mission in its most
inclusive sense as "Christian presence in the world" (Lausanne
4), which consists of "sacrificial service" and entails a "deep
and costly penetration of the world", and a permeation of "non-Christian
society" (Lausanne 6). Because followers of Christ are
engaged in the mission of the triune God, who is "both the Creator
and Judge of all", Christians "should share his concern for justice"
(Gen 18:25) and reconciliation throughout human society and for
the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression
(Ps 45:7; Is 1:17). Because all human beings are created in the
image of God, "every person, regardless of race, religion, color,
culture, class, sex or age (Lev 19:18; Lk 6:27,35), has an intrinsic
dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served,
not exploited (Jas 3:9; Lausanne 5). When one is born again
one is born into Christ's kingdom "and must seek not only to exhibit
but also to spread its righteousness (Mt 5:20; Mt 6:33) in the
midst of an unrighteous world" (ibid).
(54) Although the mission of the triune God is as broad as "God's
cosmic purpose" (Lausanne 6) and therefore calls God's
people into this all-embracing mission, Evangelicals are particularly
concerned to keep proclamation front and center. Accordingly,
the Lausanne Covenant circumscribes "evangelism itself"
as "the proclamation of the historical, Biblical Christ as Savior
(1 Co 1:23; 2 Co 4:5) and Lord, with a view to persuading people
to come to him personally and to be reconciled to God" (2 Co 5:11,
20; Lausanne 4). Moreover, Lausanne forcefully asserts
the primacy of evangelism as proclamation: "In the Church's mission
of sacrificial service evangelism is primary". A subsequent World
Evangelical Fellowship statement again stresses the crucial
role of evangelism. Yet, the document does not treat evangelism
"as a separate theme, because we see it as an integral part of
our total Christian response to human need" (Mt 28:18-21; Consultation
on the Church in Response to Human Need. Wheaton, 1983, Introduction).
Clearly, the "Great Commission" is here seen as a call to holistic
mission, with at its center calling all people to believe in Jesus
B. Old Tensions in a New Context of Koinonia
(55) It is our common belief that God has sent
the Holy Spirit into the world to effect the reconciliation of
the world to God. Those to whom the Spirit is sent participate
in this mission of the Spirit. The heart of the mission of the
Spirit is koinonia, a communion of persons in the communion
of God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
(56) The real koinonia we already share gives rise to
our mutual concern to view conjointly the issues of religious
freedom and proselytism that have divided us. We believe that
the two issues of religious liberty and proselytism must not be
treated as totally separable areas but must be firmly linked and
considered jointly as related concerns, seen in the context of
the meaning of evangelization and the possibility of common witness.
Evangelical and Catholic Christians can now recognize that they
share a real but imperfect communion with each other, and are
able to take modest steps toward a more complete communion in
Christ through the Holy Spirit. The interrelated components necessary
for increasing koinonia are repentance, conversion, and
commitment, in which we commit ourselves to the convergence that
has already begun in our life together.
(57) The first component is repentance, a radical turning
away from the habits of mind and heart that fall short of God's
purposes and design. Those purposes are that there be a communion
between persons and God, and between communities whose unity is
authored by the Spirit. God intends that the Church be the main
instrument for the koinonia of all peoples in God. Therefore,
the reconciliation of our Christian communities is urgent.
(58) The second component for increasing koinonia is
conversion in which by faith we turn to God in Christ and
his saving message. Christian conversion itself is threefold:
moral, intellectual, and religious. In moral conversion we are
freed by grace to value what God values and obey what God demands.
In intellectual conversion we learn and embrace the truth. In
religious conversion we come to abide in the love of God.
(59) The third component that the Spirit enables is a turning
to one another in our commitment to proclaim the Gospel.
Catholics and Evangelicals are striving to learn how to love one
another in our efforts at evangelization. There are signs of convergence
on how we are to participate in the mission of the Spirit in our
sharing of the good news. Our two traditions have insights into
the contents of this inexhaustible source. These insights need
to be retained in the work of evangelization that we undertake
respectively, so as to complement and affirm one another's efforts.
1. Repentance: From What Are We Turning?
(60) Catholics and Evangelicals are called to pray for grace
as we come to a better understanding of the will of Christ, which
our past relationships have not reflected (P 108). Our divisions
in the past have led to conflicts in evangelization.
But, at Manila, 1989, Evangelicals exhorted one another:
"Evangelism and unity are closely related in the New Testament.
Jesus prayed that his people's oneness might reflect his own
oneness with the Father, in order that the world might believe
in him, and Paul exhorted the Philippians to 'contend as one
person for the faith of the Gospel'. In contrast to this biblical
vision, we are ashamed of the suspicions and rivalries, the
dogmatism over non-essentials, the power-struggles and empire-building
which spoil our evangelistic witness" (Manila 9).
And Pope John Paul II, on behalf of Catholics, asked God' forgiveness
for sins against unity with the following prayer:
on the night before his Passion
your Son prayed for the unity of those
who believe in him:
in disobedience to his will, however,
believers have opposed one another, becoming divided,
and have mutually condemned one another and
fought against one another.
We urgently implore your forgiveness
and beseech the gift of a repentant heart,
so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another,
will be able, in one body and in one spirit,
to experience anew the joy of full communion.
We ask this through Christ our Lord."12
(61) Concerning "proselytism," it should be pointed out
that the understanding of the word has changed considerably in
recent years in some circles. In the Bible the word proselyte
was devoid of negative connotations. The term referred to someone
apart from Israel who, by belief in Yahweh and acceptance of the
law, became a member of the Jewish community. It carried the positive
meaning of being a convert to Judaism (Ex 12:48-49). Christianity
took over this positive and unobjectionable meaning to describe
a person who converted from paganism. Until the twentieth century,
mission work and proselytism were largely synonymous and without
objectionable connotations (B 32, 33). It is only in the twentieth
century that the term has come to be applied to winning members
from each (B 33), as an illicit form of evangelism (P 90). At
least, in some Evangelical circles proselytism is not a pejorative
term; in Catholic and most ecumenical circles it is. The attempt
to "win members from each other" (B 33) by unworthy means is negative
and pejorative proselytism. Members of our communions have been
guilty of proselytism in this negative sense. It should be avoided.
(62) We affirm therefore "that the following things
should be avoided: offers to temporal or material advantages...improper
use of situations of distress... using political, social and economic
pressure as a means of obtaining conversion ... casting unjust
and uncharitable suspicion on other denominations; comparing the
strengths and ideals of one community with the weakness and practices
of another community" (B 36). This issue of seeking to win members
from other churches has ecclesiologically and missiologically
significant consequences, which require further exploration.
(63) Unethical methods of evangelization must be sharply
distinguished from the legitimate act of persuasively presenting
the Gospel. If a Christian, after hearing a responsible presentation
of the Gospel, freely chooses to join a different Christian community,
it should not automatically be concluded that such a transfer
is the result of proselytism (P 93, 94).
(64) Catholic-Evangelical relations have been troubled by the
practice of seeking to evangelize people who are already members
of a church, which causes misunderstanding and resentment, especially
when Evangelicals seek to 'convert' baptized Catholics away from
the Roman Catholic Church. This is more than a verbal conflict
about different uses of terms like conversion, Christian, and
church. Evangelicals speak of 'nominal Christianity,' referring
to those who are Christians in name, but only marginally Christian
in reality, even if they have been baptized. Nominal Christians
are contrasted with converted believers, who can testify to a
living union with Christ, whose confession is biblical and whose
faith is active in love. This is a sharp distinction common among
Evangelicals, who see nominal Christians as needing to be won
to a personal relation with the Lord and Savior. Evangelicals
seek to evangelize nominal members of their own churches, as well
as of others; they see this activity as an authentic concern for
the Gospel, and not as a reprehensible kind of 'sheep-stealing'
(E sec. iii). Catholics also speak of 'evangelizing' such
people, although they refer to them as 'lapsed' or 'inactive'
rather than as 'nominal,' and still regard them as "Christian"
since they are baptized believers. They are understandably offended
whenever Evangelicals appear to regard all Roman Catholics as
nominal Christians, or whenever they base their evangelism on
a distorted view of Catholic teaching and practice.
(65) We agree that a distinction must be made between one's
estimate of the doctrines and practices of a church and the judgment
that bears on an individual's spiritual condition, e.g. his or
her relationship to Christ and to the Church.
(66) As to an individual's spiritual or religious condition,
whether a person is nominal, lapsed, inactive, or fallen away,
a negative judgment is suspect of being intrusive unless the person
to be evangelized is the source of that information. The spiritual
condition of a person is always a mystery. Listening should be
first, together with a benevolent presumption of charity, and
in all cases we may share our perception and experience of the
Good News only in a totally respectful attitude towards those
we seek to evangelize. This attitude should also be the case apart
from evangelization in all attempts at persuading brothers and
sisters in what we believe to be true.
(67) Evangelicals and Catholics are challenged to repent of
the practice of misrepresenting each other, either because of
laziness in study, or unwillingness to listen, prejudice, or unethical
judgments (E I). We repent of the culpable ignorance that neglects
readily accessible knowledge of the other's tradition (P 93).
We are keenly aware of the command: "Thou shall not bear false
witness against thy neighbor" (Ex 20:16).
(68) We repent of those forms of evangelization prompted by
competition and personal prestige, and of efforts to make unjust
or uncharitable reference to the beliefs or practices of other
religious communities in order to win adherents (E I, p. 91, J
19). We repent of the use of similar means for retaining adherents.
We deplore competitive forms of evangelism that habitually pit
ourselves against other Christians (P 93) (cf. DH 4, 12;
John Paul II, Tertio millennio adveniente 35). All forms
of evangelization should witness to the glory of God.
(69) We repent of unworthy forms of evangelization which aim
at pressuring people to change their church affiliation in ways
that dishonor the Gospel, and by methods which compromise rather
than enhance the freedom of the believer and the truth of the
Gospel (B 31).
(70) Thus agreeing, we commit ourselves to seeking a "newness
of attitudes" in our understanding of each other's intentions
(cf. Eph 4:23, UR 7).
2. Conversion: To What Are We Turning?
a. Growing in Koinonia
(71) The bonds of koinonia, which separated Christians
already share, imply further responsibilities toward one another.
Each must be concerned about the welfare and the integrity of
the other. The bonds of koinonia imply that Christians
in established churches protect the civil rights of the other
Christians to free speech, press and assembly. At the same time,
the bonds of koinonia imply that the other Christians respect
the rights, integrity and history of Christians in established
churches. Tensions can be reduced if Christians engaged in mission
communicate with one another and seek to witness together as far
as possible, rather than compete with one another.
(72) Central to our understanding of religious conversion is
our belief and experience that "the love of God has been poured
out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given
to us" (Rom 5:5). "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves
the child." (1 Jn 5:1). Our failures in loving one another are
the scandal that calls into question whether we have allowed this
love to come into our hearts without obstruction. Since Evangelicals
believe their church to be catholic, and Catholics believe their
church to be evangelical, it would seem that our future task is
to recognize better the aspects that each of us emphasizes in
the others' view as well.
(73) Evangelicals agree with Catholics, that the goal of evangelization
is koinonia with the triune God and one another. One enters
into this koinonia through conversion to Christ by the
Spirit within the proclaiming, caring community of faith which
witnesses to the Reign of God. Catholics agree with Evangelicals,
that all Christians of whatever communion can have a living personal
relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. On the basis of our
real but imperfect communion we ask God to give us the grace to
recommit ourselves to having a living personal relationship with
Jesus as Lord and Savior and deepening our relationship to one
b. Religious Liberty
(74) We grow in koinonia when we support one another
and acknowledge one another's freedom. Religious freedom is not
only a civil right but one of the principles, together with that
of mutual respect, that guide relationships among members of the
Body of Christ and, indeed, with the entire human family (P 99).
We have been called to work together to promote freedom of conscience
for all persons, and to defend civil guarantees for freedom of
assembly, speech and press. Recognizing that we have often failed
to respect these liberties in the past, Catholics and Evangelicals
affirm the right of all persons to pursue that truth and to witness
to that truth (J 15, P 104). We affirm the right of persons freely
to adopt or change their religious community without duress. We
deplore every attempt to impose beliefs or to manipulate others
in the name of religion (J 15, P 102). Evangelicals can concur
with the position of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom,
namely that all "are to be immune from coercion on the part of
individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such
wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in
a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained
from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately
or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within
due limits" (DH 2; cf. B 40).
(75) In the person of Pope John Paul II the Catholic Church
has recognized and apologized for the violations of justice and
charity for which its members have been responsible in the course
of history.13 Today it seeks to protect the religious
liberty of all persons and their communities. At the same time,
it is committed to spreading the message of the Gospel to all
without proselytism or reliance on the state.
(76) While religious liberty has been a rallying point for Evangelicals
from the earliest period, they have been called from their sectarianism
to greater mutual respect and increased co-operation in mission
by the catholic spirit of John Wesley, the revivals of the nineteenth
century, and the challenges of world mission. Interdenominational,
world-wide fellowship and co-operation in mission have been served
by the Evangelical Alliance. The Alliance has always been concerned
about religious liberty, indeed, as early as 1872 lobbying on
behalf of oppressed Catholics in Japan.14 According
to the Manila Manifesto (1989):
Christians earnestly desire freedom of religion for all people,
not just freedom for Christianity. In predominantly Christian
countries, Christians are at the forefront of those who demand
freedom for religious minorities. In predominantly non-Christian
countries, therefore, Christians are asking for themselves no
more than they demand for others in similar circumstances. The
freedom to 'profess, practice and propagate' religion, as defined
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could and
should surely be a reciprocally granted right (Manila 12.1).
We greatly regret any unworthy witness of which followers of
Jesus may have been guilty (Manila 12.2).
(77) Religious freedom is a right which flows from the very
dignity of the person as known through the revealed Word of God:
it is grounded in the creation of all human beings in the image
and likeness of God (P 98). Civil authorities have an obligation
to respect and to protect this right (cf. DH 2). For Catholics
this view was formally adopted at Vatican II in the Declaration
on Religious Freedom. Evangelicals at Lausanne 1974,
Manila 1989 and Amsterdam 2000 affirmed a similar
(78) Evangelicals and Roman Catholics differ somewhat
in the theological and anthropological rationale for this position.
Catholic social thought bases rights' theory on natural law. It
sees human rights as legitimate moral claims that are God-given;
free moral agents have a corresponding responsibility to act in
the light of those claims. Revelation is seen to complement this
understanding of rights. In evangelical teaching, primacy belongs
to the divine right over conscience, the Lord's immediate claim
on each individual; human rights, then, are viewed not only in
creational light but also against the backdrop of the human fall
into sin. The history of sin makes the mandate for rights all
the more important. God continues to pursue fallen creatures in
the unfolding history of grace. Catholics and Evangelicals agree
that human rights should be interpreted and exercised within the
framework of Scripture teaching and of rigorous moral reasoning.
Due regard must be had for the needs of others, for duties towards
other parties, and for the common good (P 102, DH 7). Human
rights language, also, must guard against being turned into narcissism,
self-assertiveness and ideology.
3. Turning to One Another: The Challenge of Common Witness
(79) What remains as a hope and a challenge is the prospect
of our common witness. We see the communities of faith, to which
we belong, as set apart and anointed for mission. We are concerned
about the growing secularization of the world and efforts to marginalize
Christian values. It is urgent that our evangelization be ever
more effective. Is it not also urgent that Christians witness
together? In this sense the Second Vatican Council called Catholics
to cooperate with other Christians in this way:
"To the extent that their beliefs are common, they can make
before the nations a common profession of faith in God and in
Jesus Christ. They can collaborate in social and in technical
projects as well as in cultural and religious ones. Let them
work together especially for the sake of Christ, their common
Lord. Let His Name be the bond that unites them!" (AG
The core of evangelization is the apostolic faith that is found
in the word of God, the creeds, and is reflected in biblical interpretations
and the doctrinal consensus of the patristic age. The possibility
of Evangelicals and Catholics giving common witness lies in the
fact that despite their disagreements, they share much of the
Christian faith. We rejoice, for example, that we can confess
together the Apostles' Creed as a summary of biblical faith.
(80) While acknowledging the divergences, which remain between
us, we are discerning a convergence between our two communions
regarding the need and possibilities of common witness:
The Amsterdam Declaration 2000 urged Evangelicals:
"to pray and work for unity in truth among all true believers
in Jesus and to co-operate as fully as possible in evangelism
with other brothers and sisters in Christ so that the whole
church may take the whole Gospel to the whole world" (Amsterdam
And Pope John Paul II asks,
"How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without
at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation
between Christians?" (UUS 98).
Therefore, to the extent conscience and the clear recognition
of agreement and disagreement allows, we commit ourselves to common
(81) We conclude this report by joining together in a spirit
of humility, putting our work, with whatever strengths and limitations
it may have, in the hands of God. Our hope is that these efforts
will be for the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we
ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within
us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout
all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Eph 3:20-21).
AG: Vatican II,* Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity,
CD: Vatican II, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops,
DH: Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis
LG: Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen
SC: Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum
UR: Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio
EN: Paul VI, Apostolic Letter "On the Evangelization
in the Modern World" Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), Vatican
Council II, More Post Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery,
O.P., ed. (Dublin, 1982), pp. 711-761
RM: John Paul II, Encyclical Letter On the Permanent
Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate, Redemptoris Missio
(1990), (Vatican City, 1990)
UUS: John Paul II, Encyclical Letter On Commitment
to Ecumenism (1995), Ut unum sint, (Vatican City, 1995)
* Cf. The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbot
ed. (New York, 1966)
Amsterdam: "The Amsterdam Declaration: A Charter for
Evangelism in the 21st Century" (2000), The
Mission of An Evangelist (Minneapolis, 2001) pp. 449-459
Lausanne: "Lausanne Covenant", 1974, New Directions
in Mission and Evangelization 1: Basic Statements 1974-1991,
James A. Scherer and Stephen Bevans, eds. (Maryknoll, 1992), pp.
Manila: "Manila Manifesto", 1989, New Directions
in Mission and Evangelization 1: Basic Statements
1974-1991, James A. Scherer and Stephen Bevans, eds. (Maryknoll,
1992), pp. 292-305
B: Summons to Witness to Christ in Today's World: A Report
on the Baptist-Roman Catholic International Conversations 1984-1988,
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Information
Service [IS] 72 (1990/I) pp. 5-14
E: The Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission 1977-1984,
A Report, Basil Meeking and John Stott, eds. (Grand Rapids,
1986); see also IS 60 (1986/I-II) pp. 71-97
J: Joint Working Group Between the Catholic Church and the World
Council of Churches, "The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling
to Common Witness", The Seventh Report, Appendix C, (Geneva,
1998), pp. 43-52; see also IS 91 (1996/I-II)
P: Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness, The Report
from the Fourth Phase of the International Dialogue (1990-1997)
Between the Roman Catholic Church and Some Classical Pentecostal
Churches and Leaders, IS 97 (1998/I-II) pp. 38-56; see also
Pneuma 21:1(1999) pp. 11-51
Evolution of this International Consultation
a Brief Overview
1. Historical Background
Increasing contacts between Evangelicals and Catholics during
the 1970s and 1980s provide a background for the international
consultations between the World Evangelical Fellowship and the
Catholic Church that have taken place since 1993.
Among these contacts, an international dialogue on mission between
some Evangelicals and Roman Catholics took place between 1978
and 1984. On the Catholic side it was sponsored by the Vatican's
Secretariat (after 1988, Pontifical Council) for Promoting Christian
Unity. Evangelical participants included some prominent leaders
such as John Stott, but the participants came on their own authority,
without officially representing any evangelical body. This dialogue
led to an important report, published in 1985, the first in which
Evangelicals and Catholics discussed together such themes as salvation,
evangelization, religious liberty, and proselytism. Another important
international arena in which Evangelical and Catholic leaders
have encountered one another has been the annual meetings of the
Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions (CWC).
This Conference, existing for more than forty years, includes
the general secretaries or their equivalent, from a broad range
of CWCs. The International Director of the World Evangelical Fellowship
and the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity have been among the participants in this informal annual
The need for more direct relations was evident from a specific
event which also led to the present WEF-Catholic conversations.
This took place when two representatives of the Catholic Church,
one of them from the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity,
were invited as observers and brought greetings to the 1980 General
Assembly of WEF held in Hoddesdon, England. Their presence led
to a heated debate, after which "the Italian Evangelical Alliance
withdrew its membership and the Spanish Evangelical Alliance placed
its participation in abeyance". The WEF Theological Commission
responded by creating a seventeen-member Ecumenical Issues Task
Force. It developed a statement that was published as Roman
Catholicism: A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective (ed. Paul
G. Schrotenboer, Grand Rapids: Baker 1988) in which the details
just mentioned are found (p. 9).
The CWC meeting in Jerusalem in October 1988 provided an occasion
for a private conversation on the book between, on the one hand,
Rev David Howard, International Director of WEF, and Dr. Paul
Schrotenboer, General Secretary of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod
and Chairman of the WEF Task Force, with, on the other hand, Rev.
Pierre Duprey, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity and Msgr. John Radano of the same Pontifical Council.
They decided to hold a short meeting to discuss issues raised
in the book. This meeting took place on the occasion of the CWC
meeting in October 1990 in Budapest, Hungary. Two persons from
each side -- Dr. Paul Schrotenboer and Dr. George Vandervelde,
for WEF, and Msgr. Kevin McDonald and Msgr. John Radano, for the
PCPCU -- met for two full days to discuss the book. This discussion
helped to pinpoint some of the differences between the two communions,
but it was clear that more time was required to explore these
issues. It was therefore proposed that a well prepared and longer
consultation be arranged for a later date. Bishop Pierre Duprey
invited the consultation to meet in Venice.
2. Brief Overview of the Meetings
Starting with the one held in Venice in October 1993, several
international meetings have taken place. Their general aim has
been to foster greater mutual understanding and better relations.
An initial assessment from the 1990 meeting ascertained that
the important topics to discuss in Venice were Scripture, tradition
(including the development of doctrine), and the nature of the
church as communion. It became clear that the doctrine of justification,
too would have to be treated. Papers were prepared by Rev. Avery
Dulles, S.J. ("Revelation as the Basis for Scripture and Tradition")
with a response by Dr. Henri Blocher, and by Dr. George Vandervelde
("Justification between Scripture and Tradition"). The exploratory
nature and delicacy of this encounter was reflected in the fact
that no common statement or communique was published. Eventually
the papers were published in 1997 in the Evangelical Review
of Theology. The meeting confirmed the importance of the issues
taken up for discussion but lifted up especially two issues that
tend to divide Evangelicals and Catholics. Besides the nature
of the church as communion, the other issue was the nature and
practice of mission and evangelism.
These topics were taken up at the next consultation, held in
October 1997 at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem.
Papers were given by Rev. Avery Dulles, S.J. ("The Church as One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic"), Dr. George Vandervelde ("Ecclesiology
in the Breach: Evangelical Soundings"), Rev. Thomas Stransky,
C.S.P. ("The Mission of the Church"), and Dr. Samuel Escobar ("Missionary
Dynamism in Search of Missiological Discernment"). Co-secretaries
for this meeting were Dr. Paul Schrotenboer and Rev. Timothy Galligan.
Increasing mutual confidence between the two partners was reflected
in the fact that for the first time a communique about this meeting
was published. The papers were published both in the Evangelical
Review of Theology and in One in Christ, a Roman Catholic
journal. Some months after this meeting we received the sad news
of the death of Dr. Paul Schrotenboer. His deep commitment to
the process was reflected in the fact that as early as the Venice
meeting, he participated despite the discomfort caused by the
illness that was increasingly testing his strength. In 1997 he
co-chaired the Tantur meeting, despite having had his leg amputated
some months earlier. We give thanks to God for the firm witness
of Dr. Schrotenboer to overcoming misunderstanding and hostilities
between Evangelicals and Catholics, which have persisted for so
The third meeting was held at Williams Bay, Wisconsin, November
1999, at the invitation of WEF. By this time it was agreed to
proceed with these meetings on a regular basis. The Williams Bay
session focused on the theme of the church as communion. Rev.
Avery Dulles developed this theme on the Catholic side and Dr.
Henry Blocher on the Evangelical side. Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P.
presented a paper highlighting aspects of several reports dealing
with "Religious Freedom, Common Witness, and Proselytism." Daniel
M. Carroll Rodas presented a paper on the same issues as they
affect Roman Catholic--Evangelical relations in Latin America.
Dr. George Vandervelde and Msgr. Timothy Galligan served the meeting
A new development in the conversations was marked by the request
for the preparation of two collaboratively developed papers. Rev.
Avery Dulles, S.J. and Prof. Henri Blocher were requested to prepare
a unified summary on the convergences and differences on the church
as koinonia. Dr. Thomas Oden, Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P. and
Rev. John Haughey, S.J. were asked to prepare a paper on the themes
of religious freedom, common witness, and proselytism.
Besides the discussion of the papers, several important events
took place during this Williams Bay meeting which helped to deepen
our mutual understanding. The dialogue members together visited
important Evangelical schools, including Wheaton College and Trinity
Evangelical Divinity School. The participants met and had informal
discussions with some of the faculty of both institutions. At
Wheaton, they visited the Institute for the Study of American
Evangelicals and had conversations with the director, and also
visited the Billy Graham Museum, with its display of the history
of Evangelicalism in the USA At Trinity, they were welcomed at
a reception by the Academic Dean, Dr. Bingham Hunter and addressed
by Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, a former president, after which they had
the opportunity for informal discussions with the faculty. The
members of the consultation also visited the Seminary of the Archdiocese
of Chicago at Mundelein, where Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop
of Chicago hosted a dinner. Here the consultation team also met
the local Catholic-Evangelical "Common Root" project. These various
meetings and events gave the dialogue participants deeper insights
into the life of their partner, and showed a broader view of Evangelical--Catholic
contacts, all of which encouraged the dialogue in its important
Indicative of the growth of fellowship was the fact that WEF
accepted the invitation of Pope John Paul II, conveyed by the
PCPCU, and extended also to many other churches and Christian
World Communions, to send a representative to the "Ecumenical
Commemoration of Witnesses to the Faith in the Twentieth Century,"
held at the Colosseum in Rome on May 7, 2000, one of the Ecumenical
events of the Jubilee Year 2000. Dr. George Vandervelde and Rev.
Johan Candelin participated in this event on behalf of WEF.
The fourth meeting took place at Mundelein, Illinois, Feb. 18-24,
2001. The evolution of this dialogue was reflected in the fact
that for the first time it had before it an initial draft of a
common text, namely, on the theme of koinonia, developed by Avery
Dulles in cooperation with Henry Blocher (Rev. Dulles, S.J. was
unable to attend this meeting because he was in Rome for his investiture
as Cardinal by Pope John Paul II). Another text, prepared by Dr.
Thomas Oden, gathered representative aspects from previous dialogue
documents on the themes of religious liberty and proselytism.
This and a number of brief theses reflecting on this material,
prepared by Rev. John Haughey, S.J. were discussed as well.
A Fifth Meeting took place in Swanwick, England, February 17-26,
2002. Significant changes had taken place in both sponsoring bodies
in the time between the previous meeting and this. WEF's name
was changed to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), and it
was in process of seeking new leadership. At the Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity, changes in its leadership
took place and a new president and secretary took office. Also,
when Msgr. Timothy Galligan, Co-Secretary of this Consultation,
completed his term of service to the PCPUC in 2001, Rev. Juan
Usma Gómez was appointed to that responsibility on the
Catholic side. Three new participants on the Evangelical side
attended for the first time: Rev. Dr. Rolf Hille, Chairman of
the Theological Commission of WEA, Rev. Dr. David Hilborn,
Theological Advisor to the Evangelical Alliance UK, and
Rev. Carlos Rodríguez Mansur, Fraternidad Teológica
Latinoamericana in Brazil. While preparations for this meeting
were slowed down because of these changes in both administrations,
the Consultation had before it at Swanwick an integrated draft
of a proposed common report; and aimed at bringing it to a completed
form. The text achieved at the end of the week included two main
parts. Part I focused on convergences between Catholics and Evangelicals
on Koinonia; and Part II on the relationship of koinonia
It was agreed that the completed report would be presented to
the sponsoring bodies requesting approval for its publication
as a study text. The completion of this text brought a phase of
conversations to a close. As they completed their work, the participants
expressed the hope that this consultation between the World Evangelical
Alliance and the Catholic Church would continue.
List of Participants
1. Venice, Italy,
21-25 October, 1993
Dr. Pablo Perez, U.S.A.
Dr. Paul Schrotenboer, U.S.A.
Dr. George Vandervelde, Canada
Jorge Mejía, Rome
Rev. Karl Muller, S.V.D., Germany
Rev. John Redford, England
Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P., Jerusalem
Msgr. John Radano, Rome
Rev. Timothy Galligan, Rome
Jerusalem, 13-19 October, 1997
Schrotenboer, U.S.A., Secretary
Dr. Henri Blocher, France
Dr. Samuel Escobar, U.S.A.
Dr. George Vandervelde, Canada
Dr. Stanley Mutunga, Kenya
Dr. Thomas Oden, U.S.A.
Dr. Peter Kusmic, U.S.A. (unable to attend)
Timothy Galligan, Rome, Secretary
Rev. Frans Bouwen, M. Afr., Jerusalem
Msgr. Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, Rome
Rev. Avery Dulles, S.J., U.S.A.
Sr. Maria Ko, F.M.A., Hong Kong/Rome
Msgr. John Radano, Rome
Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P., Jerusalem
Rev. Juan Usma Gómez, Rome
3. Williams Bay,
WI, 7-13 November, 1999
George Vandervelde, Canada, Secretary
Dr. Henri Blocher, France
Dr. Thomas Oden, U.S.A.
Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, U.S.A.
Dr. Tite Tienou, U.S.A.
Dr. James Stamoolis, U.S.A.
Galligan, Rome, Secretary
Rev. Avery Dulles, S.J., U.S.A.
Rev. John Haughey, S.J., U.S.A.
Sr. Maria Ko, F.M.A., Hong Kong/Rome
Msgr. John Radano, Rome
Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P., Jerusalem
Rev. Juan Usma Gómez, Rome
Br. Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., U.S.A.
Mundelein, IL, 18-24 February, 2001
George Vandervelde, Canada, Secretary
Dr. Henri Blocher, France
Dr. Thomas Oden, U.S.A.
Prof. Lilia Solano, Colombia
Dr. James Stamoolis, U.S.A.
Dr. Daniel H. Williams, U.S.A.
Galligan, Rome, Secretary
Card. Avery Dulles, S.J., U.S.A. (unable to attend)
Rev. John Haughey, S.J., U.S.A.
Sr. Maria Ko, F.M.A., Hong Kong/Rome
Msgr. John Radano, Rome
Rev. Juan Usma Gómez, Rome
Br. Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., U.S.A.
Rev. Thomas Rausch, S.J., U.S.A.
Swanwick, UK, 17-26 February, 2002
George Vandervelde, Canada, Secretary
Dr. Henri Blocher, France
Dr. Thomas Oden, U.S.A.
Dr. Rolf Hille, Germany
Dr. David Hilborn, U.K.
Rev. Carlos Rodríguez Mansur, Brasil
Dr. James Stamoolis (unable to attend)
Dr. Daniel H. Williams, U.S.A. (unable to attend)
Usma Gómez, Rome, Secretary
Card. Avery Dulles, S.J., U.S.A. (unable to attend)
Rev. John Haughey, S.J., U.S.A.
Sr. Maria Ko, F.M.A., Hong Kong (unable to attend)
Msgr. John Radano, Rome
Br. Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., U.S.A.
Rev. Thomas Rausch, S.J., U.S.A.
[Information Service 113 (2003/II-III) 85-101]
* Catholic Church and World Evangelical Alliance are the
official names of the two co-sponsoring bodies. In using their
official names, the co-sponsors of this Consultation are not,
in any way, claiming these characteristics, respectively, of "Catholic"
or "Evangelical" exclusively for themselves.
1. John Reumann, "Koinonia in Scripture: Survey of Biblical Texts",
On The Way to Fuller Koinonia: Official Report of the Fifth
World Conference on Faith and Order, Faith and Order Paper
no. 166 (Geneva, 1994) p. 62.
2. On the phrase "communio sanctorum" in the Apostles'
Creed see J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 3rd ed.
(New York, 1972) pp. 389-90. This sacramental interpretation is
favored by Stephen Benko, The Meaning of Communion of Saints
(Naperville, Ill, 1964) and Werner Elert, Eucharist and Church
Fellowship in the First Four Centuries (St. Louis, 1966),
chapter 1 and excursuses 1, 2, and 3.
3. List of Abbreviations is found at the end of the Report.
4. "A Call to Evangelical Unity: 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ:
An Evangelical Celebration' ", Christianity Today 43:7
(June 14, 1999) pp. 49-56.
5. "The Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals" (1977), Growing
Consensus: Church Dialogues in the United States, 1962-1991,
Joseph Burgess and Jeffrey Gros eds. (New York 1995), p. 579
6. We share the majority of biblical books, but the Catholic
canon includes also the books Protestants call "The Apocrypha"
and Catholics the "Deutero-canonical" books.
7. "Confessing the One Faith: An Evangelical Response by World
Evangelical Fellowship Task Force on Ecumenical Issues", Evangelical
Review of Theology 18 (1994) pp. 35-46.
8. This style of ecclesiology points to a vision of the universal
church as a network of local churches in communion. According
to the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops 1985,
"The ecclesiology of communion is the central and fundamental
idea of the Council's documents. Koinonia/communio, founded
on the Sacred Scripture, has been held in great honour in the
early Church and in the Oriental Churches to this day. Thus, much
was done by the Second Vatican Council so that the Church as communion
might be more clearly understood and concretely incorporated into
life." [Relatio Finalis, II, C), 1)].
9. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in its letter
to bishops on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion
emphasizes the priority of the universal over the particular church
(Cf. Origins 22 [June 25, 1992] pp. 108-112). In his presentation
on Lumen Gentium at the International Meeting on the reception
of Vatican II, February 27, 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger explained
that the community of the 120 on whom the Holy Spirit descended
(Acts 2:1-4) was a renewal of the community of the Twelve,
who had been commissioned to carry the Gospel to the ends of the
earth. This community was the New Israel. Cf. Joseph Ratzinger,
"L'ecclesiologia della Costituzione Lumen Gentium", Il Concilio
Vaticano II, Recezione e attualità alla luce del
Giubileo, Rino Fisichella (ed.), (Milano, 2000) pp. 66-81.
10. Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici corporis Christi 79.
11. Abraham Kuyper, Het Calvinisme, (Kampen, Kok )
12. Cf. John Paul II, "Universal Prayer for Forgiveness, III.
Confession of the sins which have harmed the unity of the Body
of Christ", during the Liturgy of First Sunday of Lent, St. Peter's
Basilica, (Vatican City, March 12, 2000). See: Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City, Information
Service 103 (2000/I-II) p. 56
13. Cf. John Paul II, "Universal Prayer for Forgiveness, e) Confession
of sins committed in actions against love, peace, the rights of
peoples and respect for cultures and religions", Vatican City,
March 12, 2000.
14. Cf. I. Randall and D. Hilborn, One Body in Christ: The
History and Significance of the Evangelical Alliance, (Carlisle,
2001) p. 98.