Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > M-RC > Brighton Rep. 2001 | CONT. > Preface
 Part One - select
      II - GOD'S PROPHETIC COMMUNITY, ... - select
  Part Two - select
  Conclusion - select


Speaking The Truth In Love:
Teaching Authority
Among Catholics And Methodists

Report of The Joint Commission Between The Roman Catholic Church
and The World Methodist Council
1997 – 2001

Seventh Series


    During the past five years the Joint Commission between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council has studied the exercise of teaching authority within and by the Church. In doing so, it has taken further the understanding recorded in previous statements of the Joint Commission, The Word of Life (1996) and, before that, The Apostolic Tradition (1991). The themes of the Holy Spirit and the Church, studied in previous phases of this dialogue, have now led to the more precise question of how the faith which comes from the apostles is transmitted from generation to generation in such a way that all the faithful continue to adhere to the revelation that has come in Christ Jesus. The teaching ministry in the Church is a particular means for this transmission and for ensuring faithfulness not only in believing but also in what is believed. This latest statement contributes one more piece to a mosaic which has been slowly developed, illustrating the various interlocking elements which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, contribute to the life of the Church as a faithful bearer of the revelation of Jesus Christ to succeeding generations.

    A word may be helpful about the general structure of the present report, which deviates a little from the pattern customary in bilateral dialogues. The introduction indicates the biblical dynamic which energized the work of the Commission during this quinquennium. Then the bulk of the document consists of two parts that differ from each other in nature. The first part states in systematic form what the Commission believes it possible for Catholics and Methodists to agree on in the matter of authoritative teaching, noting along the way such divergences as remain and some questions which each side would wish to put to the other. The second part describes the current understandings and practices internal to Methodism and Catholicism respectively, though in a style intended to be more readily intelligible by the partner and by others. Ideally, the reader approaching the report with little knowledge of one or both partners will read this second, descriptive part of the report first and will then return to it in order to see what achievements and challenges the first, systematic part of the report represents. The general conclusion of the report, in fact, synthesizes the recognizable commonalities between Catholicism and Methodism and formulates the outstanding differences in terms of work still to be done.

    Experiencing both continuity and changes in membership from previous rounds, the Joint Commission has enjoyed excellent working relationships and once more developed the mutual trust that comes from devotion to a common Lord and to a common goal, namely, the attainment between our churches of "full communion in faith, mission, and sacramental life." We have thought together, written together, prayed together, and reverently attended each other's eucharistic gatherings.

    The present document is the work of a Joint Commission whose members are officially appointed by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and by the World Methodist Council. We respectfully offer this report to our sponsors and ask for their evaluation of it.

November 2000

+ Michael Putney Geoffrey Wainwright
Bishop of Townsville Professor of Christian Theology, Duke University
Catholic Co-chairman Methodist Co-chairman


The Status of this Document

The Report published here is the work of the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council. It is a statement from the Commission. The authorities who appointed the Commission have allowed the report to be published so that it may be widely discussed. It is not an authoritative declaration by the Roman Catholic Church or by the World Methodist Council, who will evaluate the document in order to take a position on it in due time.

Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,
beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love,
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
There is one body and one Spirit,
just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a
he gave gifts to his people." (When it says, "He ascended,"
what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of
the earth?
He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens,
so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets,
some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers,
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of
until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of
the Son of God,
to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every
wind of doctrine,
by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who
is the head,
into Christ, from whom the whole body,
joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped,
as each part is working properly,
promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.


New Revised Standard Version


1    The Letter to the Ephesians celebrates the working out of the gracious divine purpose finally to bring all things together under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God the Father. The word of truth, which is the gospel of salvation, is now being preached, and those who receive it in faith are included in Christ and already made to sit with him in the heavenly places. As long as the consummation is awaited, however, the Apostle finds it necessary to exhort the believers to hold fast to what has been given them by the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the End. What was apostolically recommended to the Ephesian Christians under the threat of disunity may be pertinent to later generations seeking to remedy the divisions which have in fact regrettably occurred. Expectantly, the Joint Commission turned in particular to the fourth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians for scriptural guidance in its effort to resolve differences between Methodists and Catholics over the matter of teaching authority in the Church.

2    According to Ephesians 4:4-6, the unity of the Christian community is founded on the sevenfold unity that is recognized within the Church and upon which it depends for its existence. The Church as the body of Christ is a unity in diversity that is enlivened by one Spirit, responding to the one hope and submitting to the one Lord and head, Jesus Christ, through the faith that is celebrated in the one rite of baptism to the glory of the One God and Father of all. Thus the major topics of Christian doctrine appear as features of a living organism of beliefs. Correspondingly, the opening chapter of the Commission's report articulates the basic Trinitarian and Christological faith shared by Catholics and Methodists, that is grounded in the Scriptures, confessed together in the ecumenical creeds, embodied in the respective liturgies of the churches, and proclaimed to the world as the Gospel of its salvation.

3    In the second chapter of its present report, the Commission attends especially to the Holy Spirit as the agent of unity (Eph 4:3) and thereby highlights the pneumatological dimension that has marked its work from the 1981 report onwards. Now the Church is viewed as God's prophetic community, anointed with the Spirit of Truth. Sealed by the Holy Spirit, the Church is preserved in one and the same truth in such a way that all Christians can actively respond to the vocation of bearing witness to the Gospel which brings to humankind the hope of salvation.

4    The common vocation of Christians by no means excludes a diversity of compatible gifts and functions in the Church. Ephesians 4:7-11 in fact details a variety of charisms bestowed on the Church by the exalted Christ for the establishment of particular ministries to build up the Body and equip all God's people for mission in the world. The Epistle's list comprises chiefly offices having to do with the proclamation and teaching of the Word. Correspondingly, the Commission's report next includes a chapter in which Methodists and Catholics try to develop a common understanding on the historically controversial questions concerning the manners and modes by which, in ever changing circumstances, accurate discernment of the truth of the Gospel is attained and its authoritative proclamation accomplished.

5    Ephesians 4:12-14 states that the purpose of the teaching offices is to promote that "unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" which indicates maturity in the life of believers. Such maturity is revealed by certainty and stability with respect to matters of belief, and by the ability to distinguish between right and wrong teachings. Agreement in the truth of the Gospel is a fundamental component in the stated aim of the dialogue between Catholics and Methodists: "full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life."1

6    "Speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) is the title of the Commission's report: it captures both the spirit in which the dialogue has proceeded and the result that is hoped for from it. The Apostle urges believers to rid themselves of all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, and malice (4:31) and to cultivate rather the virtues of humility, gentleness, and patience (4:2). Because Christ incarnates the love and truth of God, love is integral to truth, and truth to love. The continuing pursuit of both in tandem should strengthen the credibility of common Christian witness to the loving purpose of God, who in the Word and the Spirit gave and still gives himself to humankind. This is the truth of the Gospel.


  1. Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council, Towards a Statement on the Church (1986), 20..

    Back to text

Index | Centro Activities | Course | Publications | Conferences
Week of Prayer | Library | Interconfessional Dialogues
Directory of Ecumenical Study Centers | Society of the Atonement
Guest Book | Credits | Site Map

1999-2004 © - Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, Inc.
Remarks to Webmaster at webmaster@pro.urbe.it