Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > M-RC > Dublin Rep. 1976 | CONT. > sec. 9
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Church Union Negotiations - sec. 9


   108. At Reuti in 1973 the Commission voted to invite Dr. Gerard Moede (then at Geneva) to write for it a survey of Methodist participation in church union negotiations and in united churches throughout the world, and to add his reflections on what implications this involvement holds (whether of theology or of policy) for Methodist/Roman Catholic dialogue, with special reference to mutual recognition of ministry.

   109. The important and substantial paper furnished by Dr. Moede was discussed at length at the Venice meeting of 1974. Discussion, however, was general, focusing mainly on the merits and demerits of existing unions and plans and at length gravitating towards the more limited topic of the advantages and disadvantages of World Confessional organizations. In the time available for discussion there was no question of justice being done to the many questions raised by the paper, especially those about the implications of our own dialogue. The paper remains as a compelling reminder of unfinished business and it is difficult to see how another five-year period of dialogue would carry conviction if it failed to grapple with these issues.

   110. In this connection it is appropriate to record that at the British Methodist Conference of 1975 a motion was proposed and passed with acclamation, "that those appointed by the Methodist Conference to the British Methodist/Roman Catholic conversations be asked - provided the competent Roman Catholic authorities agree - to explore the conditions on which communion might be established between the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

   111. At the first of this second series of conversations, at Rome in December 1972, we agreed that, besides the specific subjects of theological discussion dealt with in sections II-VII of the Denver Report, and again taken up here in the foregoing paragraphs, there were matters mentioned in section VIII of the Denver Report, and especially in Para. 121, which demanded our attention. This paragraph spoke of "the responsibility we feel for serious planning of the education of our churches at lay, ministerial and local levels". The "we" here refers to the Commission, but the responsibility is one which extends further and the Commission's role can only be a stimulating one.

   112. Since the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity has produced a section of its Directorium dealing with Ecumenical Education, we felt that a beginning might be made by eliciting reactions to this from Methodists involved in ministerial training and other forms of religious education. Members of the staff of Qeen's College, Birmingham, England, an ecumenical college containing many Methodists, responded on behalf of British Methodism. The question still remains of primary importance, and there are many places where cooperation on the lines suggested by the Vatican document is in progress. Perhaps it may be hoped that at the Dublin Conference those present who have experience of such cooperation will give an account of it and so interest and encourage others.

   113. Another aspect of ecumenical education and of Roman Catholic/Methodist cooperation which we discussed briefly at our first meeting was that of the ecumenical aspects of religious use of the public communications media, and we owe thanks to Fr. Agnellus Andrew of UNDA for reflections and information on this.

   114. Number 3 of our "Call to joint Action" of 1973 read as follows: "Churches often publish statements on moral questions. Some of these should be studied together to make explicit their common content. Then the area of agreement can be further explored and a joint witness made to these moral principles".

   115. It was our intention to promote a beginning here by arranging for a joint comparative study of the "Social Principles of the United Methodist Church", adopted by the 1972 General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and the statement, Moral Questions (London: C.T.S., 1971), put out by the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, but several attempts in different places to get this done were unsuccessful. The feeling behind this section of the "Call to Action" was that such "denominational" statements often represent a lost ecumenical opportunity - a chance missed of giving a witness in this crucial field which would be all the stronger as a joint witness.

   116. Obviously this is no less true now than it was four years ago. Not all such opportunities are neglected, but we would strongly exhort our church leaders to consider always the possibility of joining their voices when such utterances are called for. We have offered above, for example (see Para. 45), a summary of a Methodist statement on euthanasia which the Catholic Medical Quarterly (January 1975) was able to print.

   117. As we have explained earlier, the second series of our conversations has had a different method and even involved some act of confidence that the affinities, common concerns and hopes to which the Denver Report had pointed are widely shared in our communities. Hence it is right that some form of balance sheet should be offered as a result of our experience. It would be idle to deny that the general picture presented by our experience is an uneven one - this is clear enough from what has been said above. What is remarkable is that wherever Roman Catholic/Methodist discussion and cooperation takes place at all, the available evidence suggests that the experience is a positive one. We hear nothing of tensions, frustrations and flagging interest, but much of growth in understanding and sympathy.

   118. The conclusion to be drawn from this by those who have not had the experience and who still hesitate is simple. Those who have made a start best know that there is still a long road to travel, but that is not a reason for failing to start, nor yet for fainting by the way. We should always be ready for further experiment, for extending our contacts and joint concerns45.

   119. Neither John Wesley and his followers nor the great apostolic figures of Catholic history were marked by a readiness for discouragement or an unwillingness to swim against the tide. It is our privilege to live in an age when we clearly see the search for unity as integral to the whole witness to Christ, and though that vision is not proof against doubts and discouragement we should not betray the spirit of resolution and confidence which, in Christ, we have inherited from his great servants.

Meetings held at

Rome, Italy, December 10-14, 1972
Reuti, Switzerland, October 1-5, 1973
Venice, Italy, September 30-October 3, 1974
Bristol, England, September 8-12, 1975



Bishop William R. Cannon, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Bishop Prince A. Taylor, Jr., Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A.
The Rev. Raymond George, Bristol, England
Dr. Jose Miguez Bonino, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dr. Lee F. Tuttle, General Secretary, World Methodist Council, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, U.S.A.


Bishop Michael Bowen, Arundel & Brighton, England
Mons. C. Moeller, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
Rev. T.F. Stransky, CSP, New York, U.S.A.
Rev. Michael Hurley, S.J., Dublin, Ireland
Mons. W.A. Purdy, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
Mons. J. Hamer, OP., attended the 1972 meeting and was subsequently replaced by Mons. C. Moeller.
Dr. Miguez Bonino was able to attend only the 1973 meeting but supplied a paper for the 1974 meeting.
Bishops Cannon and Taylor were prevented from attending the 1975 meeting.
Dr. Robert Nelson of Boston read a paper at the 1973 meeting and stayed for the entire meeting.
Bishop Franz W. Schäfer of Zurich attended the 1972 meeting and some sessions of the 1973 meeting.
Dr. Egon Gerdes and Professor Norman Young attended the 1974 meeting.
Dean Thomas Langford of Duke University, U.S.A., and Dr. Peter Stephens of Wesley College, Bristol, England, attended the 1975 meeting and Professor Gordon Rupp was present for part of the time.

Our thanks are due to the following for hospitality and for help in arranging the meetings: the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Via Cassia, Rome; Bishop Franz W. Schäfer and the staff of Viktoria Hotel, Reuti; Don Germano Pattaro and the Sisters, Casa Cardinal Piazza, Venice; the Principal and staff of Wesley College, Bristol; and for secretarial assistance to: Miss Dorothy Buser, Miss Corinna De Martini, Miss Margaret Orrell.

[Information Service 34 (1977/II) 8-20]



  1. It is most encouraging, for example, to hear, as this report is being prepared, that a joint committee for study and collaboration has been set up between the Catholic Conference of Bishops of Latin America (CELAM) and the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America (CIEVIAL) and has already held its first meeting at Cochabamba, Bolivia.
    One of its avowed aims is collaboration with our international Commission.
    Another encouraging results of the Commission's "Call to Action" is the lively book of essays by English Catholics and Methodists, edited by Brian Frost and Leo Pyle, Dissent and Descent (London: Epworth Press, 1975).

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