Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > M-RC > Brighton Rep. 2001 | CONT. > Conclusion

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117   Both Methodists and Catholics trust the unfailing presence and grace of the Holy Spirit to preserve them in faithfulness and to protect the truth of the Gospel they preach and teach. The Catholic Church recognizes this presence of the Spirit especially in the charism of unfailing truth and faith which is given to bishops in the Church. The exercise of the ministry of teaching by bishops takes many forms and includes the special ministry of the Bishop of Rome in proclaiming the faith of all the bishops and of the whole Church. Methodists recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Methodist Conferences though they do not ascribe to them a guaranteed freedom from error. At the same time, they accept their teaching as authoritative when it is clearly shown to be in agreement with the Scriptures. Conference is the final authority for the interpretation of doctrine.

118   Both Catholics and Methodists recognize that it is the whole Church which abides in the truth because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the community of believers. Both recognize that all believers have a gift for recognizing, discerning and responding to the truth of the Gospel, and so play a part in the formulation and interpretation of the Church's faith. Most fundamentally, both Methodists and Catholics believe that it is the Spirit who preserves within the Church the truth of the Gospel proclaimed by Christ and the apostles, though there is not complete agreement on what constitute the essential components of that Gospel.

119   The corporate belief of Christ's faithful must be taken into consideration by those who teach authoritatively within the Church. Their ministry can never be exercised in isolation from the faith of the whole Church. Methodists and Catholics, however, differ in the ways in which this collaboration occurs. Both recognize the role of the laity in the development of the faith through living it, preaching and teaching it, and meditating upon it. In Methodism lay people participate as members of Conference in the authoritative determination of the precise content of the Church's faith. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, maintains that the authoritative determination of the precise content of the Church's faith is properly the ministry of bishops. The reasons why Methodists and Catholics interpret differently the roles of the laity and of ordained ministers, particularly in regard to authoritative teaching, is a matter warranting further exploration.102

120   One reason for this variation in practice is a different interpretation of the effect of the rite of ordination, which is linked to the Catholic understanding of the sacramentality of that rite. Moreover, there is a further fundamental difference in the understanding of the degree to which one can attribute a guaranteed reliability to any human instrumentality exercising a ministry of teaching within the Church, even given the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit. The relationship between ordination, authoritative teaching and the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit remains a topic for further discussion between Methodists and Catholics.103

121   At the same time, while this report acknowledges obvious differences in ministerial structure for authoritative teaching and in theological interpretation of the reliability of these ministerial structures, there remains a common fundamental belief in the presence of the Holy Spirit and the use by the Holy Spirit of recognized bodies for teaching authoritatively to ensure the truth of the Gospel which is believed by both Methodists and Catholics. Moreover, the differing language used to describe the experience of authoritative teaching does not negate the fact that both, in practice, depend upon the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit for this ministry of authoritative teaching. The experience of ordinary Methodists and Catholics and their confidence in their respective understandings of the apostolic faith indicate that these perspectives may be much closer than the differing language might sometimes indicate.

122   As Methodists and Catholics seek to move together towards full unity in love and in truth, they are committed here and now to "speak the truth in love" to each other and to all the people of the world.


Participants in the Dialogue


Right Reverend Michael Putney, Bishop of Townsville, Australia
Reverend Monsignor Timothy Galligan, Vatican CityCity

Most Reverend Alexander Brunett, Archbishop of Seattle, WA, USA
Sister Mary Charles-Murray, Oxford, England
Reverend Canon Michael Evans, Tunbridge Wells, England
Reverend Professor Francis Frost, Ars, France
Reverend Professor George Tavard, Boston, MA, USA
Most Reverend Peter Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana


Reverend Professor Geoffrey Wainwright, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
Reverend Dr Joe Hale, World Methodist Council, Lake Junaluska, NC, USA

Bishop Daniel C. Arichea Jr., Baguio City, Philippines
Bishop Mvume Dandala, Braamfontein, South Africa
Dr Scott J. Jones, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA
Mrs Gillian Kingston, Dublin, Ireland
Bishop Richard C. Looney, Macon, GA, USA
Reverend Dr John Newton, Bristol, England

[Information Service 107 (2001/II/III) 94-117] 



    par. 78
    par. 79
  1. Cf. See above, paragraphs 78-79.

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    par. 68

  2. Joint See above, paragraph 68.

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