Two illuminating papers on the ministry, one from the Catholic side,
the other from the Methodist, were presented for study at Rabat.
From these, though no concrete conclusions were drawn by the Commission,
it was recognized that this is one of the primary areas for more
extensive sharing and exploration, particularly in view of the renewed
emphasis by both Catholics and Methodists on the ministry in relation
to the cultivation of spirituality in local Churches. The possibilities
for mutual benefits from further dialogue are evident also because
of the new emphasis on the Bible and preaching among Catholics since
Vatican II and because of the growing appreciation of the sacraments
On the basis of the two papers presented at Rabat and in the light
of certain general presuppositions among Catholics and Methodists
concerning the ministry, there are areas of agreement which await
further reflection and action. The following may be singled out
for special mention:
1) The primary authority and finality of Jesus Christ as the One
through whom the ministry, whether sacramental or otherwise, is
both identified and ultimately authorized. The minister participates
in Christ's ministry, acts in Christ's name.
2) The importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in calling people
into the ministry (we recognize, of course, that the call comes
in various ways - sometimes suddenly, usually gradually - and no
effort needs to be made here to say what it means to be called).
3) The understanding of the ministry, primarily in terms of a) the
full-time dedication to Christ for life, for studying and communicating
the Gospel, and b) the functions of the minister (both of these
concern the work of administering the Sacraments, preaching the
Word, teaching Christian truth, defending the faith, nurturing souls
in spirituality, and, by teaching and example, showing leadership
through acts of reconciliation and of service to people in need).
4) The understanding of the ministry as, in some mysterious way,
an extension of the incarnational and sacramental principle whereby
human beings (as ministers), through their souls and bodies, become,
by the power of the Holy Spirit, agents of Christ for bringing God
into the lives and conditions of men (this means also, of course,
that they are agents for enabling men to find their way toward God).
5) The shared recognition of prophetic and special ministries with
their distinctive moral and charismatic qualities.
6) The "connectional" character of the ministry (the term is a Methodist
usage but the general meaning corresponds to the Catholic conception)
whereby everyone who is authentically called by the Holy Spirit
is both authorized by that same Spirit through duly recognized persons
(for Catholics, bishops) in the community of faith and assigned
a place of service in that community. Each is bound to the other
through the varied connectional systems to form a "ministry" in
the corporate sense. For example, in the Methodist Churches there
are ways of recognizing a person as a minister, namely, ordination
and conference membership wherein he subjects himself to appointment
7) The need for high standards of education and spiritual training
for ministry. For this the basic theological and pastoral studies
are as necessary as ever, but we would agree that they need to be
supplemented by a sensitive and open attitude to the arts and sciences,
especially those concerned seriously with human behavior. Readiness
to gain from the advances and achievements of human knowledge, and
receptiveness to those spiritual elements deriving from the common
Christian inheritance, often latent in literature and the arts,
are needed in ministry today. In this regard, much in Part II of
the Roman Directorium Ecumenicum leads us to hope that much more
serious efforts at joint study of common problems and at practical
collaboration in preparing for ministry may prudently develop between
8) Encouraging experiments are already there to point to an awareness
of problems and ambiguities arising in an age of rapid change concerning
the meaning and function of ministry.
In the immediate future there are certain problems facing us, certain
questions that Methodists especially would wish to ask which may
be clearly and briefly stated:
How are we to understand the relationship of the ordained ministry
to the laity? What does it mean to speak of "a difference in kind
(essentia) and not merely in degree" (Lumen Gentium, 10, ii).
In what sense is there a difference in kind?
What specifically stands in the way of Roman Catholic recognition
of Methodist ministry as authentic? Do the changes of emphasis
in thinking about ministry manifested in Vatican II offer promise
of progress here? What can be expected of new thinking and research
on the concept of apostolic succession?
What is the bearing on the question of ministry of prophetic and
In what specific functions may and should Catholic priests and
Methodist ministers share? If they can share in these (whatever
the list), are they not alike ministers in those functions?
In view of the lack of clarity in both the New Testament and the
early history of the Church on the nature and authorization of
the ministry (except for the Master's selection and authorization
of the disciples), what guiding principles are indicated for understanding
the meaning of orders? How important have pragmatic factors been
and how much influence should they continue to have in defining
orders? Why should there be three orders instead of two or one?
We do not of course suggest that these questions are either original
or exclusive to us. For instance, they have, together with important
related questions, concerning e. g. episcopacy and primacy, been
the object of expert study within the "Catholicity and Apostolicity"
commission of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic
Church and the World Council of Churches, an interim account of
whose work has recently been published. Our two Churches in the
next phase of their dialogue should welcome the latter commission's
proposal to "study in depth and examine critically" these themes
and should welcome equally the commission's compilation as "a tool
in the service of Joint research".