1. TOWARD AN AGREED
STATEMENT ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
"Why an agreed statement on the Holy Spirit?"
Methodists and Catholics repeatedly discover a notable rapport when
they speak of spirituality, the life of the Spirit. In view of the
signs discernible in the world today, of which we have just spoken,
it seems right and good that Catholics and Methodists (themselves
seeking to respond to the prompting of the Spirit bringing them
together) should speak with one voice regarding this fundamental
doctrine, and in the hope that this voice would be echoed by our
brothers and sisters in many other Churches. The doctrine of the
Person of the Holy Spirit has never been a point of division between
us: and our discussions have shown that differing traditional emphases
and forms of expression are complementary and mutually enriching,
rather than divisive or a cause of dissension.
we are aware that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit underlies much
of the "ecumenical agenda" still to be considered by our
Churches (cf. sections II and III).
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
Holy Spirit in the Godhead
The Holy Spirit is God. He is fully and perfectly divine, just as
are the Father and the Son, possessing as they do all the divine
attributes, so that he is all-wise, knows everything, is everywhere
present, is all-powerful and eternal. There never was a time when
he was not, and there will never be a time when he will cease to
The testimony of the Church is that God is one, yet he is also three.
The unity of God lies in his nature. Though these three Persons
have the same nature, they are not one and the same Person. The
Holy Spirit is the Lord and Life-giver, proceeding from the Father
and the Son, as the Western Tradition states it, or through the
Son, as the Eastern Tradition states it, to be adored and glorified
with them, and active with them in the salvation of people. He is
not simply a mode of the Godhead; he is a Person, just as are the
Father and Son, distinct from each though one with both.
That which differentiates the three as Persons is their relations
to each other in the Godhead. The Father is the source and fountainhead;
the Son is eternally begotten of him and is related to him as Son
to Father; the Holy Spirit is related to the Father and the Son,
proceeding from the Father and the Son (or from the Father through
It is by their relationship that the Divine Persons
are distinguished. Within the Godhead the Son and the Spirit proceed
from the unoriginated Father. One approach in Western theology links
the procession of the Son with the intellect He is the Word
and the procession of the Spirit with the will He
is Love, the personal Love of Father and Son.
The Biblical witness shows that in their operations each Person
plays a special part. Though the Triune God has always been at work
and involved in the lives of people since creation, it is primarily
through the missions of the Son in the Incarnation and of the Spirit
after the resurrection in the foundation and life of the Church
that we come to know that the one God is Trinity and are led into
some understanding of the work of the three Persons through God's
saving acts in history. The Spirit is God's Gift of Himself to His
people. He is Lord and Giver of Life. He is the love of God reaching
out to humankind for its transformation and salvation.
Hence it is on the work of the Spirit that this
statement will concentrate. Although ultimately the Spirit is to
be adored rather than explored, Christian tradition has always sought
to understand him better in order to love him and respond more fittingly
to his many gifts.
THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT
Holy Spirit discloses the meaning of Creation
Creation and salvation, which is "new creation", are closely
linked. Scripture sees salvation history as a marvel of creation;
God's work of creation, especially of humankind, is related to his
Word and to his "breath of life", the Creator Spirit.
Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit and the Word of God never
cease to act together. In the New Testament the Word of God made
flesh by the action of the Spirit does nothing without the Spirit
and the consummation of his work is the gift of the Spirit.
Holy Spirit discloses the meaning of Creation
The Holy Spirit was active and creative at the conception of Jesus
(Mt. 1,18-20; Lk. 1,35), at his baptism (Mk.
1,9.11; Mt. 3,13-17; Lk. 3,12-13), and during his
entire public ministry (Mk. 3,22-30; 9,29; Mt. 12,25-32;
Lk. 11,20; 4,1-14; 10,21).
A new stage in the work of the Spirit, namely
the founding of the Church, was begun through Christ's death, resurrection
and the giving of the Spirit to the disciples.
Today from every side we hear the question once
posed by Paul. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me
from this body of death?" (Rom. 7,24). With or without their
knowing it, the questioners are asking about justification: how
may a sinner find a gracious God? how may a meaningless life be
The Holy Spirit is present and active within us
throughout the entire experience of conversion which begins with
an awareness of God's goodness and an experience of shame and guilt,
proceeds to sorrow and repentance, and ends in gratitude for the
possession of a new life given us through God's mercy in Jesus Christ.
Justification is not an isolated forensic episode,
but is part of a process which finds its consummation in regeneration
and sanctification, the participation of human life in the divine.
Here, of course, the key concept is "prevenience", a concept
emphasized by both the Council of Trent and John Wesley. Always
it is the Spirit's special office to maintain the divine initiative
that precedes all human action and reaction. The Holy Spirit is
God himself, present and active in human .hearts and wills, "nearer
to us that breathing, closer than hands or feet". This is why,
when some wrongly denied the Church's latent sense of the Spirit's
prevenience, the Church's positive response was rightly to reaffirm
the truly splendid title: Lord and Giver of Life.
The Council of Trent teaches that the beginning
of justification in adults takes place by means of the Lord's prevenient
grace which moves us to conversion, enabling us freely to choose
to follow the inspiration God gives us when he touches our heart
with the light of the Holy Spirit. "When Scripture says, Turn
to me, and I turn to you' (Zech. 1,3). we are reminded of our freedom.
When we answer, Turn us, Lord, to you and we shall be turned'
(Lam. 5,21), we confess that we are prevented (moved first) by grace"
(Session 6: Decree on Justification, Ch. 5, DS 1525).
In justification God through the atoning work of Christ restores
a sinner to a right relationship with himself. In such a restoration,
both the initiative, the agency and the consummation is the ministry
of the Holy Spirit as he brings Christ to us and leads us to him.
When a sinner is led to Christ and receives him, he is re-born and
given the power to turn away from a life curved back upon itself
toward a "new life", opened out to love of God and neighbor.
Thus the tragic malignancies of sin may be healed;
thus the deformed self may be formed, reformed and fulfilled. Blind
eyes may be opened; atrophied wills renewed; minds bemused by idols
of pride, avarice and greed, may be liberated so as to judge by
other norms. Thus a new future, for self and society, may be opened
up to permanent and constructive "revolution".This is
our reconciliation to God who was in Christ reconciling us to himself.
And this is justification: to be regarded and treated as righteous,
for Christ's sake; and yet also to be put in the way of becoming
righteous. All of this is done by the initiatives of the Father's
redeeming mercy, manifested in the Son's atoning grace, through
the Holy Spirit's activity within our hearts.
"The Spirit himself is bearing witness with our spirit that
we are children of God" (Rom. 8,16). We receive the Spirit
of adoption, who dwells in Christians, pouring God's love into our
hearts, enabling us to say "Abba" and in the Our Father
to pray for forgiveness, conscious of weakness but fully confident
of God's merciful love for us in Christ. Moreover, when we do not
know how to pray, it is the Spirit who intercedes for us (Rom. 8,26).
According to the Fourth Gospel, the ultimate purpose of the mission
of Jesus was to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples
(Jn. 20,22-23). The Holy Spirit brings about the forgiveness of
sins because it is His role to teach us, the disciples of Jesus,
all things necessary for our salvation and bring to our remembrance
all that Jesus said (Jn. 14,26). Because He is the Spirit of Truth,
He bears witness to Jesus and enables us to be witnesses in our
turn (15,26-27). He guides us into all the truth, declares the things
that are to come, and so glorifies Jesus (16,13-14). By revealing
to us the sonship of Jesus and the meaning of His mission, the Holy
Spirit by the very fact shows the wrongness of the fundamental sin:
lack of faith in Jesus (Jn. 16,8-11).
The Holy Spirit sanctifies the regenerate Christian. Sanctification
is a process that leads to perfect love. Life in the Spirit is human
life, lived out in faith, hope and love, to its utmost in consonance
with God's gracious purposes in and for his children. As Wesley
put it, the end of human existence is the recovery and the surpassing
of the perfection in which that existence was first conceived and
"... Hence (in the end of creation) will arise an unmixed
state of holiness and happiness far superior to that which Adam
enjoyed in paradise ... And to crown all, there will be a deep
and intimate and uninterrupted union with God a constant
communion with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the
Holy Spirit, a continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, of all
the creatures in him" (The New Creation, § 18).
Holy Spirit and the Christian Community
The chief mark of the post-Easter Church is that God gives to it
the Spirit and thus creates the community of the New Covenant..
The risen and exalted Lord takes possession of the world through
his body, the Church, into which members are baptized in the Spirit.
Our obedience is a sign of Christ's Lordship as we show in our lives
his dying and his rising. His Spirit of power and love makes obedience
possible by breaking the slavery of sin and giving freedom. Yet
disobedience remains and only the daily offering of our bodies as
a living sacrifice can display the triumph of his grace. By the
Spirit we drink the cup of Christ and share his life.
By grace we are saved through faith, not because
of works (cf. Eph. 2,8-9). Baptism, which is celebrated within the
believing community, is the outward sign and means both of grace
and of faith.
The Holy Spirit gives to us a variety of spiritual gifts (charismata)
(cf. I Cor. 12,4) which equip the different members of the body
for ministry: these are not confined to such gifts as prophecy or
speaking with tongues. In the Charismatic Movement or neo-Pentecostalism
many have come to a new experience of life in the Spirit: but they
must remember that the Spirit's work is not easily distinguished
from the actions of the free human beings through whom he works:
not all human works are the work of the Spirit. Guided by the Spirit's
gift of discernment (I Cor. 12,10) we must develop criteria to distinguish
those that are. The fruit of the Spirit is "love, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5,22-23). And
these are the evidence of true faith.
The Spirit guides the development of the Church. In every age, as
the Paraclete, he reminds us of all that Jesus said, leads us into
all truth, and enables us to bear witness to salvation in Christ.
The Holy Spirit inspires Christians as they seek to obey Christ's
commission to make disciples of all nations.
At the last God will triumph over sin and death and in fulfilment
of his pledge of the Spirit bring all who love him to unending glory.
Holy Spirit transforms the human community into the Kingdom of God
God inaugurated his Kingdom in Christ.
The coming of this Kingdom involves the transformation
of the human community now marred by sin with its resultant oppression
and poverty into a community of justice, love and peace.
The Holy Spirit, applying the finished work of
Christ, wills to accomplish this social and political transformation
in and through people, especially in and through those who acknowledge
the risen Christ as the Lord of history. And therefore we are to
pray for, work toward, and hope for the attainment of this goal.
The present work of the Holy Spirit is the first
fruits of this transformation (Rom. 8,23). Though we have no grounds
for thinking that this transformation will be complete in this world,
we nevertheless believe that all Christians must strive for it in
order to bear witness to God's promise to complete this transformation
in the world to come.