Jesus Christ was sent among us by God the Father to make known and
to bring to completion the divine purpose of salvation, the "mystery
of Christ " hitherto hidden and "now revealed in the Spirit"
(Col 1:26 and Eph 3:5). In the power of the Holy Spirit, this mission
continues in and through the Church, the family Christ gathers together
in common obedience to the Father's will. As Christ's servant, the
Church proclaims to the world the message of his victory over sin
and death, provides a living sign of that victory, and summons everyone
to repent and believe the gospel and so receive the promised Spirit.
It is Christ's will that his disciples should live at peace with
one another; he binds them together through the gift of divine grace.
The New Testament documents do not present us with an unattainable
ideal but describe the actual life of a real society brought into
being by Christ. This society is not a closed fellowship of perfect
observance: its members have not already attained all that God intends,
and it is open to all the world. It acknowledges that by his grace
true followers of Christ may be found everywhere and welcomes them
into its company as they affirm their Christian discipleship.
This Roman Catholic-Methodist dialogue, and the whole movement for
unity in the faith, follows the path Christ set for his Church in
obedience to the mission he himself received from God the Father
and transmitted to us (Mt 28:18-20). It is a movement that breaks
down the barriers sin en Christians, drawing all believers into
a single fellowship of praise and turning lifelong enemies into
friends for eternity. Today as Catholics and Methodists we both
face the urgent task of evangelizing a world deeply affected by
superstition and secularism, by indifference and injustice; we must
look together to the one Lord who sends the Spirit upon us all that
we may go out and witness in his name. Doing this with credibility
entails a common understanding of the Gospel and the ability to
recognize in each other's lives and confessions an authentic witness
to the faith.
In order to build on previous work in the dialogue, the Commission
pursued a theme which has proved increasingly important throughout
the whole ecumenical movement, namely the Apostolic Tradition, understood
as the teaching, transmission and reception of the apostolic faith.
It is hoped that this approach may set the difficult problem of
ministry in a new light, since this topic has hitherto been predominantly
considered in its relationship to the administrative and sacramental
life of the Church rather than in relation to its teaching.
In the overall title of this report, The Apostolic Tradition, the
word "Tradition" signifies the living transmission of
the Gospel of Christ, by manifold means, for the constant renewal
of every generation. Christians do not order the life of the Church
by the fixed repetition of rigid routine laid down in the past.
Rather, by recalling and holding fast to the treasured memory of
the events of our salvation, we receive light and strength for our
present faith as, under God, we seek to meet the needs of our own
time. It is Christian hope that makes possible our wholehearted
and active contribution to the continued handing on of the transforming
power contained in the Gospel.
Our knowledge of the past life of the people of God, witnessing
to their experience of God's action among them, enables us to recognize
and to comprehend the risen Christ as he speaks to us today. We
learn to express ourselves in his language in the midst of the people
he has made; he sends the Spirit to us to open our understanding
and to guide our words and actions in the service of his loving
purpose for the extension and completion of God's kingdom. We enter
into his loving purpose as, by God's grace, we receive in faith
the benefits of Christ's saving death on the Cross and with him,
dying to self, are raised to new life (Rom 6:3-4). This is the mystery
that constitutes the true life of every believer and gives meaning
and effect to all preaching and teaching of the Church, to every
practice, ministry and ordinance.