In every country of the world, men and women, old and young,
are found worshiping in churches, cathedrals, chapels and house
groups, confessing in a great variety of cultures and in many tongues
"Jesus Christ is Lord". They have discovered the Redeemer
of the world to be their own Savior, and their commitment to Christ
gives meaning and purpose to their lives.
In Asia and Africa, the number of Christians has doubled
in recent years as seeds sown in earlier times come to fruition.
Indigenous evangelizers have taken responsibility in the creation
and animation of new church communities. New ecclesial communities
are also being born in places thought by some to have moved into
a post-Christian' era. In countries of Eastern Europe, believing
people have lived their faith with tenacity in the face of atheism
and oppression and now bear dynamic witness to the way faith continues
to outlive all forces that would destroy it. New signs of life are
appearing in Western countries where Christians are confessing their
faith as a thoughtful alternative to prevailing materialistic values
and the full flowering of secularism which had seemed an inevitable
trend in the modern world.
Catholics and Methodists participate in this astonishing
persistence and explosive growth of Christian presence and witness
in the world. Whether in a Catholic parish in Zaire or in an urban
Methodist congregation in Korea, whether at the preaching of the
Word or in the celebration at the Table, the common acclamation
rings out: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come
again". Praise issues in evangelistic testimony and caring
service as believing Methodists and Catholics disperse to bear witness
to the Lord among their neighbors.
The heart of the faith is common to Catholics and
Methodists; but while they sometimes share in prayer and witness
together, often they proceed on their own more or less parallel
lines. The current situation calls into question the separation
that we have inherited and spurs us on to work for our eventual
full communion in Christ. The work done by this Commission up to
now has been directed towards this end. Our previous document, The
Apostolic Tradition, studied the source of our faith and the means
by which it has been communicated to us.
God's Word, revealing God to us, and God's Spirit,
enabling us to know God, have led us now to study more closely the
ways in which God gives himself to us and the response that we make.
God's revelation comes for our reception as the Word of Life, to
be confessed, propagated and celebrated. The more we can do these
things together, the more we shall be in harmony with the Gospel
of reconciliation, and the more credible will be our witness, to
the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore we seek
full communion in faith, mission, and sacramental life. This Report
is offered as a contribution towards the achievement of the doctrinal
agreement necessary to that end.
JAMES W. MALONE
1. In the continuing search for the doctrinal agreement necessary
to full communion between Catholics and Methodists, the Joint Commission
now treats what are usually called, in theological terms, revelation'
and faith'. We are looking for commonly acceptable ways of
expounding the historical self-disclosure and indeed self-gift of
the triune God, focused in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and
brought home to successive generations of believers by the Holy
Spirit, released in power at Pentecost. We are seeking a common
account of how men, women and children, opened to the gracious presence
of God, are enabled to commit themselves, body and soul, heart and
mind and will, to their Maker and Redeemer and, in communion with
him, become renewed in the divine image, in the holiness and happiness
which is God's intention for humankind. God's revelation and the
human response to it constitute the substance of the Church's faith,
mission and sacramental life; and the more common the account we
can give of these things, the closer we may come to one another
in our understanding and practice of them and so be readier for
full communion between us.
2. Seeking to place its work under the Word of God, the Commission
heard anew the opening words of the First Letter of St. John:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which
we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched
with our own hands, concerning the word of life the life was made
manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you
the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest
to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you,
so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with
the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:1-3).
This sacred text starts from the particularity of
the God of Israel's self-revelation in Christ: the divine Word,
who was in the beginning with God and has led the history of the
chosen people, has been made flesh in Jesus. That sheer self-gift
of God is a word of life to humankind: God so loved the world that
he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life. In Christ, in his words, his deeds, his entire
existence, God has been revealed in audible, visible, palpable form;
God has been received by human ears, eyes, and hands. What the first
believers have taken in, they then bear witness to and transmit,
for the message spreads the offer of a life shared with God. The
modes of the announcement will appropriately reflect, echo and hand
on what was seen, heard and touched in the embodied manifestation
of God in Jesus Christ. Accepted in faith, the words, signs and
actions of the Gospel will become the means of communion with the
one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The divine life into
which the Spirit introduces believers will be a common life, as
each transmits and receives what is always the gift of God.
3. In this passage from Scripture, we find already indicated
all the main themes of the Commission's deliberations and report:
the gift of the revelation of the triune God; the human response
of faith; the proclamation, as missionary message, of what has been
received in faith; word and sacrament as the intelligible and tangible
means of grace; communion with the triune God as the very life of
the Church, the community of believers which in God's name offers
to the world the salvation that the Church already anticipates with
4. The revelation of the triune God is the source of the
Church's faith, the Church's mission, and the Church's sacramental
life. These are three essential ingredients in the full communion
our commission has declared is the final goal of our dialogue (cf.
Towards a Statement on the Church, § 20; The Apostolic Tradition,
§ 94). Revelation, faith, mission and sacramental life are
briefly described below. The main body of the Report will go on
to look at each in more detail, to outline their connections, and
then finally to offer a vision of our goal of full communion.
5. Revelation is God's self-disclosure to human creatures.
Having already left a divine mark in all that he has made, God initiated
a more direct self-revelation by speaking to Abraham, who was called
to the land where his descendants would dwell. The Creator became
known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham and Sarah,
who received the promise of God, have been seen as models for all
believers. Giving the law through Moses and leading the chosen people
through judges, kings and prophets, God was known to the people
of Israel in a unique way among the nations. And this knowledge
of God, and of our human condition before him, has been conveyed
to later ages by the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
6. In the midst of this chosen people, at the appointed time,
God sent the divine Word, who took flesh from the Virgin Mary as
Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer and Mediator, in whom the divine
revelation was fully embodied. The first response to this revelation
in Christ, is formulated in the Scriptures of the New Testament,
which are thus normative for all later ages.
7. The Scriptures attest that it is by the Spirit of God
that human beings see God manifest in history Thus their response
to revelation is more than a mere reaction to extraordinary events;
it is faith', that is a knowledge that involves complete personal
commitment, body and soul, heart and mind, to the divine self-disclosure
- of the One whom Jesus called "Abba, Father", of the
Word whose presence and action is perceived in the words and acts
of Jesus Christ, and of the Spirit, the Enabler and Supporter of
all who believe.
8. Revelation and faith are thus correlative events and moments.
What God reveals through Jesus is apprehended in faith through the
power of the Holy Spirit. While this faith was, in the Old Testament,
an inspired response to God made known as the Creator and the Law-giver
who also spoke through the prophets, it is, in the New Testament,
shaped by the fundamental awareness of the tri-unity of God that
has been preserved and continues to be experienced in the Christian
community. That witness to this Trinitarian faith has been handed
on in the apostolic tradition. It has been preserved in successive
ages by baptism in the threefold Name of God, "the Father,
the Son, and Holy Spirit", formulated in the traditional creeds,
and reflected in the decisions and exhortations of the great councils
of the Church. Catholics and Methodists are in full agreement on
this Christological and Trinitarian dimension of revelation and
9. God's revelation aims to bring about communion between
humankind and God. The faithful response to God's gift of himself
is fundamentally one of grateful acceptance and loving self-surrender.
All who have welcomed the revelation of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit feel bound to celebrate together the wonderful deeds of God
and to declare them in mission to the world:
- Christians have always been ready to give an account
of the hope they share (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and have professed their
faith publicly United with Christ through baptism and the Lord's
Supper, they are called to make their own the faith of the whole
community of believers. Sunday after Sunday, Methodists and Catholics
make the same fundamental affirmations of faith during worship,
and this realization impels them to work towards unity of faith
in every aspect of Christian life.
- From the day of Pentecost, believers have gone out
in the power of the Spirit to share what they have seen and heard
and handled. They have done so aware that the gift they have received
is not for themselves only; that Christ through his Spirit has commissioned
them to make disciples of all the nations. Faith flows out in mission.
Catholics and Methodists recognize that they have to overcome everything
that prevents them from bearing united witness to the one God revealed
in Jesus Christ.
- The community that professes its faith and reaches
out in mission to the world experiences the reality of Christ's
promise "I am with you always, yes to the end of time"
(Mt 28:20). Its life together, above all its worship, manifests
this grace of God. In its prayer, preaching and sacramental rites
it is nourished in communion with God and offers an invitation to
humankind to accept the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. Here,
too, Christ's Spirit challenges us to be reconciled at one table
in a unity of worship and praise so that the world may believe.
10. By baptism, and the faith in Christ which it signifies,
Catholics and Methodists already enjoy a certain measure of ecclesial
communion. The purpose of the dialogue between us is to increase
and deepen our relationship until we reach sufficient agreement
in the Christian truth that our common baptism can without equivocation
be completed in our mutual participation in the Meal to which the
one Lord invites us and all his followers. The unity we seek to
promote is not solely for our own enjoyment but for the sake of
a credible witness to the reconciliation that God in Christ has
wrought for the world and therefore among humankind. Our unity is
to allow us to "glorify with one mind and one voice the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6), in anticipation
of the day when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that
"Jesus is Lord", to the glory of God the Father (cf. Phil
2:10). As Catholics and Methodists, we are inspired and sustained
by a vision of the crowning moment when "there will be a deep,
an intimate, an uninterrupted union with God; a constant communion
with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit; a
continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, and of all the creatures
in him!" (John Wesley, Sermon 64, The New Creation',
11. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job
11:7). The biblical answer is clear: God cannot be found by our
efforts to seek him out. The mystery of his being cannot be penetrated
by human endeavor alone. Indeed, although human beings have been
made in God's image they have been blind to the light of this mystery
in the order of created things. Our knowledge of God is entirely
dependent on the Creator's free and gracious choice to make himself
known, which he has continued to do in pursuit of his good purpose
12. We call this self-communication of God revelation'
because of the recurrent biblical pictures of One who is hidden
taking action to disclose himself, at the same time pointing people
in the right direction and opening their eyes so that they may truly
see him. Yet in this self-communication not all was revealed. Even
Jacob, who wrestled with God, saw him face to face and lived, gaining
the new name Israel' (cf. Gen 32:30), still did not know God
in his fulness; God's name was withheld. "I appeared to [them]
as God Almighty," Moses is reminded, "ut by my name the
Lord I did not make myself known to them" (Ex 6:3).
13. Jacob's change of name to Israel, and before him Abram's
to Abraham, reminds us that when God is known or seen through revelation,
more is gained than information. In biblical thought a name is more
than a label; it actually conveys the being and character of the
one thus named. So, with knowledge of God in his revelation comes
new relationship, new possibility, even in Paul's words, "a
new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). When Simon recognizes Jesus as
the Son of the living God he becomes Peter on whom the Church is
to be built. When the light of revelation breaks through to Saul
on the Damascus road he becomes Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Those who take to themselves God's revelation in Jesus Christ are
conformed to his image and receive his name.
God's Revelation In History
The History of Salvation
14. That God reveals himself in history is a central theme
in the Church's preaching and teaching, referring as it does to
the events which made Israel a people through whom all the nations
would be blessed. Some events in particular are emphasized, such
as the call of Abraham, the Exodus and Sinai events, settling in
the Promised Land, returning from captivity in Babylon. These are
seen as paradigmatic manifestations of God as creator, redeemer,
sustainer and liberator.
15. It is important to note, however, two things:
First, that these occurrences by themselves did not necessarily
amount to revelation. It was not always clear at the time who this
self-revealing God was, or what the events implied for the way the
participants were to respond. Did the Egyptians acknowledge God's
hand in the Exodus? "Is the Lord among us or not?" the
people demanded of Moses in the wilderness (Ex 17:7). How could
they sing the Lord's song in the alien Babylon? Thus along with
occurrence there was needed the interpreting word - sometimes directly
from God, more often through the prophets, and especially in the
Torah with its commandments from God revealing his will.
Second, the history in which God is revealed is not limited to these
special events. God is present in all history - to Israel as judge
even when it seems he has deserted them; Lord over all the nations
even if they do not acknowledge him; reflected in creation even
if not clearly perceived; imaged in his human creatures even if
they have distorted that image.
16. Revelation then has this comprehensive relation to history:
for those who have eyes to see and hearts to know, the destiny of
all individuals and nations is with the Creator-God, and will be
fulfilled when his Day comes, unexpected though the terms of such
a day may be, as Amos reminds us (cf. 5:18).
Jesus Christ, the Decisive Event of Revelation
17. The New Testament writers affirm, in their different ways,
that God's self-revelation in history
reaches its climax in Jesus Christ. In his life, death and resurrection
he reveals God in a unique way. Jesus does more than announce and
point to the coming kingdom; in his powerful deeds and life of loving
obedience to the Father, the kingdom is already present (Luke).
As proclaimer of the word he is more than the last in a long line
of prophets, more even than the prophet whose coming would herald
the last days; he conveys the word of God by being its embodiment
(John). He is greater than priests and angels - as well as prophets;
he is the eternal Son through whom the world was founded and to
whom all things are now in subjection (Hebrews).
18. In echoing the same theme Paul continues the image of
uncovering that which has been concealed'. In Jesus is unveiled
the mystery previously hidden of God's purpose that all nations
might be brought to obedience (cf. Rom 16:25). And Jesus does more
than simply announce this intention; he reveals God's righteous
purpose by fulfilling it, dying so that even the ungodly may be
reconciled to God (cf. Rom 5:7-8) and that the reordering of the
whole cosmos may begin (cf. Col 1:18-20).
Revelation as Word and Act
19. It is obvious enough that it is only because of these
earliest witnesses to Jesus that we know him as the self-revelation
of God. We are dependent upon those who came to faith in him at
the time and spread the word about him, on those who later wrote
their accounts not just of what happened but of its meaning and
significance, and on those in the community of faith from then until
now - lively and faithful interpreters of the tradition.
20. Significantly this link between event and interpreting
word goes back to the actions and speech of Jesus. Reading the Gospels,
we see that his words and mighty deeds became witnesses to Jesus
himself, inviting people to recognize in him the power and authority
21. So, for example, Jesus' ethical teachings on murder and
adultery call not just for renunciation of anger and lust but for
decision about who it is that claims authority to go beyond earlier
authorities, and hence decision about whether Jesus is to be accepted
as authentic revealer of God. In the same way Jesus' healing miracles
come to bear witness to him as they call for faith, not just so
that they will work but so that he will be recognized as exercising
power and authority from none other than God. Along with the deed,
therefore, goes the interpreting word. The casting out of the demon,
for example, is linked with Jesus's authority as teacher (cf. Mk
1:21-28); healing the paralytic goes along with his authoritative
word of forgiveness (cf. Mk 2:1-12); the implication of his healing
on the Sabbath is made clear by his word "the Son of Man is
Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mk 2:28). John too makes it clear
that the revelation occurs when deed and word are brought together:
the feeding of the multitude with "I am the bread of life"
(Jn 6); healing the blind man with "I am the light of the world"
(Jn 9); the raising of Lazarus with "I am the resurrection
and the life" (Jn 11). Thus the words and the deeds of Jesus
alike gain their full significance from their source and power in
22. God's purpose was also made known through those who came
to have faith in Jesus. As the believing community proclaimed the
Gospel of God's love revealed in Jesus the Christ, and manifested
the gifts of the Spirit in their lives, other people came to believe
in Jesus, to know his risen presence and to follow his way This
revelation comes not simply through words but also by what believers
have become through their calling by Jesus and empowering by the
Holy Spirit. "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ" that has come to Paul and the others
now shines through them, earthen vessels though they are, so that
the transcendent power may be known, so that "the life of Jesus
may be manifested" (2 Cor 4:5-10; cf. 1 Thess 1:5).
23. So it is in the ongoing life of the Church. When
there is faithful witness to Jesus Christ, people hear through the
words of witness the Word of God and know through deeds of love
the God of love. To such witness in word and deed all the faithful
are called, but not in isolation from each other. To be in
Christ' is already to belong not only to him but also to the whole
company of believers that lives by his grace. From the beginning
of his ministry Jesus called others to be with him in order to embody
God's loving purpose for the world. So Paul, after the resurrection,
was able to call the Church both the body of Christ and the community
of the Holy Spirit.
Revelation Of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
24. From the beginning the disciples of Jesus recognized
that his life and work could not be accounted for in merely human
terms. So the questions arose: What was his relation to the Maker
of heaven and earth? And to the Spirit who moved over the waters
at creation and inspired the words and actions of the prophets?
Integrally related to these questions about his person were others
about his work: What has he done? How are his death and resurrection
God's work for our salvation?
25. The biblical witness has led the Church to the conviction
that Father and Son and Spirit were giving themselves for the redemption
of us all. On the cross Jesus suffered and died, evoking the Father's
compassion as his Son endured the full extent of human alienation
in order to redeem it. Just as we see Jesus's relation to the one
he called Father in sharpest focus around his death, so his relation
to the Spirit is clearly seen in the witness to his life. It was
by the Spirit that he was conceived, anointed at baptism for his
vocation as Son, and led into the wilderness to face the alternative
ways, advocated by the Tempter, of being Son. In the Spirit he taught,
by the Spirit he healed and so revealed the presence of the Kingdom;
with the Spirit he endowed his followers for their ministry in his
26. This testimony to the life of Jesus, as part of the history
of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is confirmed by the resurrection.
For the resurrection testifies both to the victory of the Father,
who raised Jesus from darkness and death, and to the power of the
Spirit, who conforms believers to the image of Christ. Living in
the presence of the risen Lord, we know by faith the transforming
power of the Holy Spirit and are enabled to live as grateful children
of the Father. Thus the Church gives glory to the one God, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.
27. God's revelation is received by the faith it prompts;
and the act of faith is traditionally styled the faith by
which we believe' (fides qua creditur). Correspondingly, believing
faith is directed towards God, the story of his revelation, its
results and its expected completion; and the content of faith is
styled the faith which is believed' (fides quae creditur).
As living response to the living God, faith grows and produces fruits,
its authenticity being tested in a process of discernment. These
three facets of faith are treated in what follows: the faith by
which we believe, the faith which is believed, and the fruitfulness
The Faith By Which We Believe
28. The Gospel invites all human beings to join the first
disciples in receiving God's revelation in Jesus Christ. It is in
a situation of sin that this revelation is received. All of humanity
has been so infected by self-centeredness, self-reliance, and the
search for false gods that, facing the total holiness of Jesus,
humanity is seen as having sinned in Adam. This basic sinfulness
is experienced in many ways, and especially in the insecurity and
distress that follow a continual failure to do good and a recurrent
choice of what is evil. In the midst of this sinfulness, Jesus comes
as the only Savior, God's revelation acquires the dimension of redemption,
and faith is offered by the Spirit as saving faith, by which those
who believe the Gospel receive forgiveness, justification, sanctification
and all the graces that are needed to persevere in God's ways.
29. Individual believers profess this saving faith as members
of a community, the community of those who, like Mary at the Annunciation
(cf. Lk 1:38), have consented to God's design for their life and
who, like Peter, have confessed Jesus to be "the Christ, the
Son of the Living God" (Mt 16:16). The Church, community of
salvation, gathers in itself all those who have effectively been
called "out of darkness into God's own marvelous light"
(l Pet 2:9). Through sharing the word and participating in the sacraments
of faith, the Church's members experience the healing hand of Christ
when they struggle with the many obstacles that Scripture designates
as the world, the flesh, and the devil (cf. I Jn 2:13-16); and already
they are given a taste of Christ's victory over death (cf. Heb 6:4-5).
30. It is not by human power that the believers perceive
the word addressed to them through Christ, believe it, and come
to salvation (cf. Mt 16:17). Faith is God's gift, which they accept.
Finding in Jesus "the pioneer and perfecter of their faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross"
(Heb 12:2), the faithful undergo conversion, team fidelity, and
witness to the One they trust. They strive to practice a loving
and willing obedience. Because they believe in Christ, they obey
him. Because they hear and confess the truth of his revelation,
they seek to live by it. Because they trust in his promises, they
abandon themselves to God and they work towards the perfection to
which they are called. In their life of fidelity and obedience they
are led by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
31. While it is entirely God's gift, faith is inseparably
a free act and an attitude of grateful reception of God's grace
and revelation and of self-commitment to the living Lord who from
first to last is the guide of the faithful through the action of
the Holy Spirit (cf. l Cor 12:3). Freely given, it is freely received.
As faith transforms human life it enables the mind to discern God's
plan of salvation as this is described in the Scriptures and delineated
in the creeds in which the Church has from time to time formulated
its faith in unanimity of hearts and minds (cf. Acts 4:32). In this
fidelity revelation feeds the intellect with heartfelt convictions.
The Faith Which is Believed
32. To speak in the same breath of faith "transforming
human life" and "enabling the mind to discern God's plan":
of "heartfelt conviction" and "feeding the intellect",
of "unanimity of heart and mind" confirms the inseparability
of the life of faith and statements of faith. The faith that receives
God's revelation, the faith by which we believe, is more than a
dimension of human feeling, accompanied though faith may be by experiences
of gratitude, assurance and joy. It is a response that is shaped
by the nature and being of God who gives himself in revelation.
Thus what is believed is an integral part of faith, and it is this
that gives content to that life of fidelity and obedience to which
the faithful are led by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
33. Already in the New Testament there is a clear link between
the faith by which we believe, the faith which is believed, and
the faithful action consistent with such belief. In the letter to
the Philippians (2:68) Paul includes an early hymn about Jesus Christ,
"who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality
with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the
form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being
found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to death,
even death on a cross." This was used, not only to enable Paul
and the community to give unified verbal expression to their faith,
but also to provide the pattern for their ongoing life as the body
of Christ, obedient to the way of their living Lord. Thus this affirmation
of faith is prefaced with the words, "Have this mind among
yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus." The faith by which
we believe and the faith which is believed come together in the
life of faithful obedience.
34. Historically the Church has always expressed this faith
in creedal form. As noted above, the affirmations in the Letter
to the Philippians are made in the context of the giving of life
to the believer. That the early Church understood its own more formally
developed statements of the faith in the same way is shown by its
universal use of the name symbol' for the creed. This reflected
a common practice of the time when contracts were made. Each party
took a piece of broken clay vessel, later to be fitted together
to confirm the identity of the parties to the contract. These interlocked
parts were called a symbol (from the Greek symbolon, a putting together).
So, to call the creed symbol' was to emphasize the way it
brings together God's gift and the Church's response, believers
too being brought together by affirming this sign of saving faith.
Therefore, during the rites of initiation, the bishop gave the creed
to persons to be baptized as symbol of active participation in the
believing community, to be re-appropriated as the creed was recited
thereafter within the context of worship.
35. Thus the creeds are one component, along with sacraments
and authority, of what St. Augustine considered the universally
recognized ways (catholica) of taking to ourselves the self-giving
of God in Christ. It is therefore a mistake to view the creeds simply
as collections of propositional statements requiring no more than
intellectual assent. They convey the Gospel message in a way that
Catholics and Methodists accept as authoritative and life-giving,
as is shown by their being regularly prayed in the liturgy. For
both our churches, therefore, what is believed is a matter of glad
assurance, leading on to a path of faith to be followed.
36. In his Letter to a Roman Catholic John Wesley affirms
the faith to which true Protestants and true Catholics both subscribe,
faith which believes and faith by which we believe, leading on to
faithful action. He follows the outline of the Nicene Creed: God
the Father of all, who "of his own goodness created heaven
and earth, and all that is therein"; Jesus Christ, "conceived
by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost and born of the blessed
Virgin Mary", joining "the human nature with the divine
in one person; dying on the cross, risen and ascended" as "Mediator
till the end of the world"; "the infinite and eternal
Spirit of God, equal with the Father and the Son, ... not only perfectly
holy in himself but the immediate cause of holiness in us";
the Holy Catholic Church gathered by Christ through his apostles;
the forgiveness, justification and resurrection of the faithful.
Then Wesley goes on to insist on the practice of such faith by those
who believe. Thus the appeal for unity, that Protestants and Catholics
should "help each other on in whatever we are agreed leads
to the Kingdom" is based on the conviction that what is believed
and affirmed in common must be embodied in the life both of the
believer and the community of faith. It is with this conviction
that Methodists and Catholics continue in dialogue, "that we
may not fall short of the religion of love, and thus be condemned
in what we ourselves approve." Faith is tested by the fruit
The Fruitfulness Of Faith
The Growth of Faith
37. The living response to the living God revealed in the
Bible engages the whole person and so we may speak of a variety
of ways in which the response is lived and expressed within the
Church. We respond to God's self-disclosure not only by simple assent
to what he has done for us in Christ but by a return to our original
calling through a life of faith lived in history. Revelation is
transmitted by people of flesh and blood in a variety of situations.
This brings forth a creative and dynamic fruitfulness so that the
Church as a living body always develops new expressions of faith,
hope and love.
1. History and Development
38. In the course of its development the Christian community
has gained new insights into the revelation once given. The tradition
shows its fruitfulness in the richly varied expression of these
insights. Since this is a historical process, we are in a dialogue
not only with our contemporaries but with our predecessors in the
faith. We must hear what has already been said, and in doing so
we recognize the dynamic character of revelation as the past enters
the present and prepares for the future. Coherent development illustrates
the fruitfulness of revelation.
39. The Church itself, as a seed which grows with the support
of the Holy Spirit and in response to God, has an inherent dynamic.
There is no way of understanding the fruitfulness of revelation
save in the community of faith. Development is an ecclesial process
based on the experience and holiness of the faithful. It is seen
by both Methodists and Catholics as a more comprehensive phenomenon
than the development of doctrine. St. John's gospel, in speaking
of fruitfulness, points to ecclesial perspectives: the Father is
the husbandman, Christ is the vine and we are his branches; and
it is the Holy Spirit who will guide the community into the fullness
of truth. Since the Holy Spirit shows the way, no limits can be
set to God's assistance in this process. Development as the fresh
interpretation of faith means allowing our minds in each generation
to be formed according to the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
2. The Church and Its Environment
40. Since the Church is made up of human beings, its growth
in understanding takes place through human interaction. Christians
exercise their freedom in creative dialogue with the world. Fruitfulness
occurs not only as the result of the Church's own internal pondering
on its origin and destiny but also in response to external stimuli.
The perception of the truth grows and is tested by the challenges
of successive ages.
41. To live the Gospel implies taking up those challenges,
in the certainty that Jesus Christ is Lord of history and knowing
that the Spirit of God is active in human life, inspiring and leading
in the quest for justice, freedom, peace and human dignity. The
Church, as it shares in this human endeavor, under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit and attentive to the Word of God manifested in
the Scriptures and in its own historical experience, tries to identify
what is good and should be defended and promoted, and to call attention
to and resist ideas and courses of action opposed to the Gospel
and detrimental to human life. This process, which has always been
present in the life of the churches, has been sometimes called "discerning
the signs of the times."
42. The Church often enters into discussion with different schools
of thought as it considers new theories, questions, and discoveries.
It listens to friends, rivals and enemies. But there are times when
it must also resist ideas that are opposed to the Gospel. Revelation
itself provides the motivation and guidance for this ministry of
The Fruits of Faith
43. Fruitfulness assumes many forms. They certainly include
People have witnessed to their faith in Jesus Christ, the
Incarnate Word, even to the point of martyrdom. In Baptism this
same faith has been confessed in the midst of the believing community.
When necessity arose, the Church formulated its belief through the
Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed. From time to time in subsequent
centuries synods and councils have again confessed the faith in
formulas adapted to new circumstances and in new languages.
44. The developing fruitfulness of the faith has at times
led to a refocusing of the understanding of the Gospel. This was
notably the case with Confessions produced at the time of the Reformation,
which centered on the experience of being justified by grace through
faith. In them and in the subsequent teaching of the Council of
Trent, the Christian and Trinitarian heart of the faith was placed
in the context of the sovereign action of God alone in bringing
sinners to justification and salvation.
45. The very fruitfulness of faith means it is also exposed
to the diverse influences of the cultures and philosophies it encounters.
The desire to increase faith by understanding and to protect it
from variations and deviations has led to the formulation of doctrines.
Some of these have served in turn as standards of faith and orthodoxy
(as in the traditional creeds), while others have been used to build
up theological systems that would be intellectually satisfying and
would provide apologetical arguments for the defence and further
proclamation of the faith. Different doctrinal emphases and diverse
theological syntheses, however, have counted among the many factors
that have estranged churches from one another and eventually led
to conflicting doctrines and confessions. The attempt to overcome
such estrangement ecumenically is itself a fruit of the continuing
development of faith.
2. Spiritual Life
46. The manifold fruitfulness of faith has been manifest
at the level of thought, in the careful elaboration of doctrine,
and also at the level of personal experience. The truths that are
implied in the Gospel have been sensed to be living truths leading
to newness of life and to deep experiences of God in Christ, present
in the heart by the testimony of the Spirit. Ways of spiritual life
have been explored and described. The writings of the Syriac, Greek
and Latin fathers, the monastic rules and the theology of the early
middle ages, the more scholastic descriptions of ways of ascent
to God, the documents of the devotio moderna at the time of the
Renaissance, are monuments and instruments of the fruitfulness of
faith. As they discovered and followed the examples of great saints,
the faithful have explored new paths to God and found new evidences
of the divine presence in their lives, in the community, and in
the world around them. For example, the Virgin Mary, theotokos,
has come to be seen, especially by the Orthodox and Catholic tradition,
as an icon of the Church and of the Christian soul, a model of holiness,
and a companion in pilgrimage. Devotion to a disciplined life of
prayer and commitment to the works of mercy stood at the origin
of the Methodist movement. The untiring efforts of John Wesley to
proclaim the Gospel to all, especially the neglected and the poor,
and to call them to a life of holiness and a desire for perfection,
were themselves a precious evidence of the fruitfulness of faith.
47. Devotion is the form that faith takes in prayer. It inspires
new life and manifests the Spirit's enablement of weak human wills
to do good. It leads on to discipline, when the desire to follow
the Lord organizes personal life, regulates the use of resources,
and places personal enthusiasm and passion at the service of the
48. In the search for perfection Christians have found help
from outside the Christian tradition, formerly in neo-platonism
and recently, for example, in various Asian schools of wisdom. This
has not been without its dangers. Yet sources of spiritual life
and devotion to counterbalance the danger of deviation have always
been available in Scripture, especially in the New Testament and
the Psalms. Personal life and devotion find their proper setting
in the light of the Word faithfully preached and of the sacraments
administered in accordance with the Gospel. Thus faith, devotion,
and discipline are located within the worship and liturgy of the
49. In the presence of the self-revealing God, people feel
awe and joy and are moved to express this in praise, prayer, confession
and commitment. They wish to recall the message of grace they have
heard; to celebrate the acts of God with words, gestures and song;
to express in prayer their fears, needs and hopes; and to re-enact
the story of salvation in liturgy and drama
50. The Scriptures amply attest the centrality of private
and public worship for God's people. When God's revelation of himself
came to its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the people. of the New Covenant
held on to their heritage of worship in a new way. The psalms became
a hymnal for the Christian Church; the passover meal acquired fuller
meaning as a sacrament of salvation in Jesus Christ. Moreover new
hymns were formed (cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20) , and baptism in
the name of the triune God became the sign of new creation in Christ
and incorporation into his body
51. As the Gospel spreads, entering new cultures, different
languages and expressions are used and the Church's worship is enriched
and diversified. The Church welcomes both developments in liturgical
traditions and new and spontaneous expressions of faith and worship
as signs of the fruitfulness of God's message and the ever-present
action of the Holy Spirit. At the same time. the Church seeks to
ensure that they are genuine manifestations of the Spirit, and faithfully
reflect and proclaim the Gospel.
52. The faithful community claims to follow the one who came
not to be served but to serve (cf. Mk 10:45). The model for all
ministry is found in the Lord himself. In his earthly ministry he
proclaimed the coming kingdom and "went about doing good"
(Acts 10:38) - healing the sick, calling the dispossessed and marginalized,
demanding justice and restoring life. In a variety of ways the Church
not only proclaims the message with words but also ministers to
the spiritual and material needs of all - in caring for the poor,
the stranger, and the neglected. This service of charity has been
an essential part of its mission. Having experienced the loving
mercy of God, the Church also feels bound to denounce injustice
and oppression, to work for peace and to articulate the ethical
consequences of God's love for humankind. To all cultures, the Church
offers the leaven' of the Gospel.
The Discernment of Faith
53. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the revelation given
in the very person of Jesus Christ fruitful
for building up the Church as a whole and for the spiritual journey
of each of its members. The Holy Spirit is the source of all authentic
discernment. "Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying,
but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every
form of evil" (1 Thess 5:19-22). There are several ways and
means of testing' all things, a variety of principles of discernment
provided by the Spirit.
1. Criteria for Discernment
54. Because the Scriptures are the normative witness to the
revelation in Christ, they are central
to Christian discernment. The Christian believer must become acquainted
with their content, reflect on their meaning, and apply their teaching
in daily life. "From childhood you have been acquainted with
the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God
and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for
training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:15-17).
55. Fidelity to the scriptural word is also exercised by
those who, in virtue of their ministry, assist the faithful in this
scriptural discernment. Thus the Second Vatican Council stated that
the: "Magisterium is not above God's Word; it rather serves
the Word, teaching only what has been transmitted, as by divine
mandate and with the Holy Spirit's assistance, it listens to God's
Word with piety, keeps it in awe and expounds it with fidelity"
(Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, §
10). Wesley was able to spread scriptural holiness throughout the
land because he made scriptural truth run with the oil, and burn
with the fire, of the Holy Spirit.
56. This Latin phrase is often used in Roman Catholic theology
to denote an inner harmony between personal conviction in faith
and the teaching of the Church. The conviction is designated by
a word for feeling (sentire) rather than for thinking, because it
is a kind of spiritual instinct, antecedent to any discursive reflection
on the truth to which it adheres, or on national proof of that truth.
It derives not only from intellectual capacity, but also from moral
uprightness and graced spiritual goodness.
57. Wesley was well aware of the paramount importance of
such conviction for giving living witness to the basic Christian
doctrines handed on from generation to generation by the Church.
Contemporary divines frequently accused him of irresponsibility
in authorizing for preaching men whom they regarded as theological
ignoramuses. He retorted that a morally upright tradesman who prayerfully
frequents the Scriptures can much more easily attain that level
of conviction indispensable for effective witness and preaching
than a dissolute clergyman who relies on a purely academic biblical
and theological expertise. Wesley knew that, in the mind and the
heart of the deeply convinced Christian believer, the Holy Spirit
is ever at work, bonding the exercise of particular spiritual gifts
into unity with the exercise of complementary gifts in all the other
members of the body of Christ, the Church.
58. In the perspective of Vatican II, this action of the
Spirit brings about an interdependence in communion between the
spiritual instinct of the whole body of the faithful and those who
are empowered to make normative acts of discernment of what is,
or is not, faithful to Christian Tradition. "Thus the remarkable
harmony of bishops and faithful comes into being in the preservation,
the practice and the confession of the traditional faith."
(Dei Verbum, § 10). The Latin for harmony' is con-spiratio,
that is a convergence of inspiration', brought about by the
Holy Spirit between the sentire of the faithful and discernment
by the Magisterium.
59. One criterion by which new developments in Christian
teaching or living may be judged consonant with the Gospel is their
long-term reception by the wider Church. Such reception sometimes
will take place in theological discussion and sometimes in the practical
life of the local churches or of the individual believer. In every
case reception of what is true is a spiritual process. The deep
conviction of gaining the truth, however, can be an occasion for
struggle and separation, when conflicting opinions claim to be true.
The process of reception, therefore, calls also for a careful listening
to the insights of others. Only the truth itself brings about conformity
to Christ in the Spirit. To be anointed with scriptural truth by
the Spirit of Jesus (cf. I Jn 2:20-21) is to let his truth seep
into every area of Christian living. It is to assimilate it into
the very being of the Church and its members, to receive it in the
fullest sense of the word. Those who are rooted in the biblical
truth by the work of the Spirit not only know the truth, but they
know that they know it.
60. Conformity, in deep conviction, to Christian doctrinal
and moral truth bears fruit in holiness. It produces that spiritual
holiness which in his successive descriptions of the character of
a Methodist, Wesley so often described as "walking even as
Christ walked." This vital link between truth and holiness
makes holiness a criterion of the existence of truth in the process
of interpretation and development of doctrine. This process involves
not just one individual but whole generations in succession to one
another. Towards the end of his life, Wesley attempted several times
a history of the Methodist movement. He considered that the truth
of the most precious insights of Methodism was demonstrated by the
flowering of scriptural holiness in every part of the land. The
quality of Methodism's fruits proved the health of the original
61. The Second Vatican Council speaks of a growth in insight
into what is passed on by Christian Tradition, coming about through
a pondering which unites the heart and the head, in a way characteristic
of the sentire cum ecclesia referred to earlier. Growth in insight
"comes through the contemplation and study of believers who
ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19 and 51)" (Dei
Verbum, § 8). There must be growth in love to achieve more
insightful knowledge of the riches of faith. In other words, there
must be growth in holiness. Holiness is, therefore, not only a criterion
of the rightness of development in doctrine and ecclesial life;
it is a source of such development in its forming of the convictions
and insights of believers and their interaction on each other.
2. Agents of Discernment
62. The criteria by which the Church discerns the will of God have
been applied in several ways and at several levels of the life of
the people of God. One may list the following:
by the People of God
63. According to Scripture the discernment of God's will
is the task of the whole people of God. The admonition to prove
and to approve (dokimazein) what is good in the eyes of God is a
major theme within the letters of the Apostles (cf. Rom 12:2; Eph
5:10.17; Phil 1:9f; I Thess 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1 f). Paul prays for the
Church in Philippi, "that your love may abound more and more,
with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what
is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus
Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil 1:9). The people
of God in their daily life have "to learn what is pleasing
to the Lord" (Eph 5:10) and what will meet the needs of their
neighbors. In this discernment God's love is the leading power,
and the needs of the community of the believers and the sufferings
of the people around them are pointers to the right direction. Such
active openness in love to the very truth which is Jesus, and to
the disinherited people of their times, drove many of the saints
in our two communions to new forms of piety and service in the world.
By this kind of discernment Wesley taught that it was not enough
that masters should treat their slaves justly and fairly, but that
it was God's will that slavery be abolished.
64. At times in the history of the people of God shepherds
and flock have gone astray. Through the prophets God called his
people back to the way. This was not only true for Israel but also
for the Church of the New Testament. The letters to the seven churches
witness to the exalted Lord telling his Church what to do and what
to abstain from (cf. Rev 1:4-3:22). In the history of the Church
prophetic voices of warning and admonition have arisen, some of
which were readily listened to and some not. The prophetic call
is not based on approval by official authorities or on reception
by the whole people of God. It claims to be directly authorized
65. Because there have been cases of false prophecy, St.
Paul refers to the necessity of discerning spirits', distinguishing
between spirits (cf. I Cor 12:10) and weighing what is said by prophets
(cf. 1 Cor 14:29). The gift of prophecy should be exercised according
to the analogy of faith (cf. Rom 12:6), in accordance with the basic
truth of the apostolic message. Wesley saw such an analogy
of faith' in the basic subjects of biblical preaching: original
sin, justification by faith, and present inward salvation. This
may be related to the Christological criterion: "Every spirit
which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from
God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God"
(1 Jn 4:2-3). God's saving and redeeming act has in fact reached
human nature and existence in their entirety This is what links
faith in the incarnation of Christ with the message of the justification
and sanctification of sinners by faith through God's saving grace.
This is the criterion, this is the analogy of faith', according
to which prophecy should be exercised and tested.
66. The difficulty of weighing' or even discerning'
the words of prophets has to be acknowledged but this should not
diminish the challenge to listen to prophetic voices. This difficulty
has sometimes occasioned divisions and it is only with hindsight
that those who have been so divided have been able to begin to distinguish
the true from the false in what was at issue.
67. There are times when the Church needs a formal decision
about whether some doctrines are right or wrong, or which actions
are appropriate to the needs of the time as well as to the calling
of the Church. Already the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the
"apostles and the elders gathered together to consider this
matter" (15:6). It is the common belief of our churches that
there are those who are authorized to speak for the Church as a
whole and who, after having carefully listened to Scripture and
Tradition and the experience of believers trying to live out the
Gospel, and after a reasonable and prayerful discussion, may say
"It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts
15:28a: cf. 1 Cor 7:40b).
68. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Churches
hold that the first Ecumenical Councils defined a fundamental, genuine
and valid formulation and interpretation of the Apostolic Faith.
69. Within the Roman Catholic Church the teaching office
of the bishops in unity with the Bishop of Rome is exercised in
the name of Jesus Christ. While their teaching office "is not
superior to the Word of God, but is its servant" (Vatican II,
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, § 10,),
the bishops "have received the sure charism of truth",
which may authorize them to define the doctrines drawn from the
70. Within Methodism the teaching office is exercised by
the Conferences. When Wesley in 1744 first met with some of his
preachers for such a conference he asked them to decide on the following
questions: (1) What to teach? (2) How to teach? (3) What to do?
Basic for their decision was the testimony of Scripture, but they
also looked into the treasures of Christian tradition, especially
from the earliest times, and they listened to the experience of
those engaged in the work of evangelism, and reflected rationally
on the questions facing them. On this basis and with these guidelines
in mind, Methodist Conferences discern what God wants to be preached
and done in today's world.
71. The differences between these approaches and their implications
for the communion of faith will have to be dealt with at a later
stage of the dialogue between Methodists and Catholics.
72. St Paul himself writes to the Corinthian Church with
which he is in controversy over the interpretation of the Gospel:
"Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for
your joy, for you stand firm in your faith" (2 Cor 1:24). Every
formal expression of pastoral authority, whether the teaching office
of the bishops or the power of councils, synods and conferences,
and every expression of prophetic challenge, is to serve the unbuilding
of the whole people of God under the lordship of Christ himself.
This should lead to a growing interdependence and mutual recognition
of those who exercise pastoral authority within the Church, those
who offer prophetic vision, and all those who, by their response
to revelation and their inspiration through the creative love of
God, participate in active tradition of the Gospel and compassionate
discernment of the will of God for his Church and the world.
The Mission Of The Church Comes From God
The Source of Mission
73. The Church's missionary activity takes many forms but
ultimately has only one source. Mission springs from the Triune
God's loving design for all humanity. God's act of creating and
his concern for his creatures are expressions of his outgoing love.
When the Father chose to make himself known, and when he revealed
and inaugurated his loving purpose for a world marked by sin, he
did this through sending his Son and the Holy Spirit. "When
the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son" and "the
Spirit of his Son" (Gal 4:4-6). In many places in St. John's
Gospel Jesus is designated as the one "the Father has sent"
and he himself promises that the Father and he will send the Spirit.
It is, therefore, a fundamental Christian conviction that the very
nature of the Church is missionary, and that the Church's mission
is none other than a sharing in the continuing mission of the Son
and the Holy Spirit expressing the Father's love for all humankind.
Commissioned by Christ
74. The Risen Christ himself calls on those who follow him
to share in his mission. Addressing
his disciples, he says: "As the Father sent me, so I send you."
(Jn 20:21). They are to carry forward his once for - all redemptive
mission in space and time, to all peoples and all ages. He prays
also "on behalf of those who will believe in [him] through
their word" (Jn 17:20-23). They must all be sanctified by his
truth, holding fast to what the Word himself has given them (Jn
17:17; 17:14). As they proclaim Jesus Christ, whose person and mission
were totally one, those who follow him spend themselves even to
the point of laying down their lives for the Gospel.
Mission Empowered by the Holy Spirit
75. Such participation in the mission of Christ is possible
only because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The infant Church,
gathered behind closed doors, was empowered to go out and speak
effectively of the mighty deeds God had done through Jesus Christ
only after it had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2;
cf. Lk 24:48-49; cf. also Jn 20:22). What happened in Jesus Christ,
in a particular time and place, is henceforward communicated to
people of every language and culture. In the Spirit, the proclaiming
community itself becomes a living gospel for all to hear.
The Baptised and Mission
76. The great commissioning at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel
is addressed to the apostles and to all who will share their faith
(Mt 28:16-20). All nations are to come to the fullness of life in
the triune God in whose name they will be baptised. Those who accept
the Gospel will become members of the body of Christ, and a dwelling-place
of the Holy Spirit, knowing and loving God as their Father. As they
are united with Christ they are also joined to his mission. All
aspects of their common life serve to build up the body and its
members in holiness. They are thereby enabled to reach out in word
and witness to all who have not yet heard the Gospel.
Mission: Word And Act
77. Jesus's mission was to proclaim God's saving acts: "The
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach
good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the
captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty
those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the
Lord" (Lk 4:18-19). Jesus was sent to announce that God was
coming to release the people from captivity to the powers of evil,
sin and death and to heal their suffering and wounds. What Jesus
said, he did. He set those free who were possessed by evil spirits
and released those who suffered from guilt and alienation. On the
other hand his preaching reached beyond the present moment. In blessing
the poor he gave them the assurance that God was with them and that
his kingdom would belong to them.
78. Because the ministry of the Church derives from the mission
of Jesus, his ministry must serve as the paradigm for the mission
of the Church. The Church proclaims what God has done to save humankind
through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is
the Word of life which God has spoken; he is the witness to all
human beings that God has come and, from within their limitations,
shared the abundance of his love. Taking upon himself the burden
and curse of the law, he reconciled us to God and took away our
sins, making peace by the blood of his cross. To proclaim God's
love in Jesus Christ is more than to remember and tell the story
of Jesus and what he has done for us: wherever this story is told
those who hear are empowered by the Holy Spirit to open their hearts
to the love of God so that they may live in a community of love,
reconciliation and peace.
79. People who have experienced God's faithfulness and righteousness
will share what they have received by deeds of mercy and justice.
Moreover, they will seek to shape society according to the pattern
of the kingdom of God. Theirs is the fellowship of the new creation,
of which they have received a foretaste by the gift of the Holy
Spirit. Never claiming to build the kingdom by their own efforts,
they will give all the glory to God.
80. Every facet of the Church's mission - witness, service
and worship - embraces both word and act:
requires the public proclamation of the Gospel, telling the story
and inviting response and acceptance. It includes testimony from
person to person and the silent and yet telling faithfulness of
those who suffer and even die for their Lord and his love.
- Service is expressed in care for the sick and needy, and all
who long for healing, in counseling the troubled, in advocacy
for the poor and in work for peace, justice and the preservation
- In worship the manifold gifts of God's grace are celebrated
within the body of Christ. The community that gathers around word
and sacrament draws into fellowship people from different backgrounds,
with different abilities and gifts, all being made one in Jesus
All this has been recognized in both our traditions at their
best. But we often fall short in practice of what we maintain in
principle. This gives a reason for repentance and change of heart,
for the integrity of the Gospel demands our full commitment to witness,
service and worship.
Mission And Community
81. Since the Church is missionary by its very nature, mission
is by its very nature ecclesial. Built by the Holy Spirit the community
will be the instrument for the proclamation and acting out of the
Gospel, the place where people will grow in faith and holiness,
and a paradigm of the new life of joy peace, solidarity and service
which Jesus Christ offers to all humankind.
82. The Church's mission involves prophetic and priestly
service. Its message relays God's demand for mercy, justice and
peace in human society, particularly in regard to the weakest and
the least privileged. In a world of brokenness and estrangement,
the Christian fellowship, as a community of acceptance, forgiveness,
freedom and love, can function as a sacrament of Christ's healing
83. The existence of such a community is the fruit of the
Spirit who gathers, sustains, nourishes and endows the faithful
with the diverse gifts which enable them to witness to the Gospel.
This requires that the community and its members make constant use
of the means of grace God has provided, not least among which are
ecumenical sharing, fellowship and cooperation. Through these means
all are called to daily repentance, continual renewal, and the search
for holiness. Being thus strengthened by the Spirit the faithful
witness to Christ by word, example and action, even as they are
scattered into the world for their daily life and duties. In turn,
their witness, shared in fellowship, prayer and praise, builds,
strengthens and deepens the community.
The Apostolic Mission
84. The whole people of God has been sent by Christ into
the world to witness to the love of the Father in the power of the
Holy Spirit. In this sense it is apostolic. All its members are
gifted by the Spirit, and there is no gift without its corresponding
service. Within that service of the whole there has been, from the
beginning, a ministry uniquely called and empowered to build up
the body of Christ in love. This is apostolic' in the specific
sense because it began with Christ's choosing from among his disciples,
the twelve "whom he named apostles" (Lk 6:13). It has
continued through the ages in those who follow them in that ministry.
After his death and resurrection Christ confirmed the commission
of the apostles and sent them out as messengers by whom the Gospel,
spoken and lived, would be preserved and proclaimed throughout the
whole world (cf. Mt 28:19-20). Their consistent witness, in obedience
to the Spirit, was to be a sign of the continuing presence of Christ
(cf. Acts 1:8). In the mission of the Church, their special place
has been remembered and acknowledged. The first history of the spread
of Christ's teaching is entitled the Acts of the Apostles; the baptismal
confession is called the Apostles' Creed; the handing-on of that
faith from generation to generation is known as the Apostolic Tradition.
85. In their imperfections, their slowness of understanding and
their wavering faith, as well as in their ultimate loyalty the apostles
are representative of the humanity Christ came to save. Their life
with him became a model for the life of the Church: they began to
grasp the revelation; they were held together by a common hearing
of the Word; they were sent out with a common purpose, to enable
all nations to hear, believe and live the Word. In fidelity to the
apostolic teaching, the recognizable pattern of their fellowship
(Acts 2:41-47) has persisted in the life of the Church.
86. The Church is like a living cell with Christ as its center;
the community, as it grows and multiplies, retains its original
pattern. Apostolic communities need people to do for their own time
what the apostles did in theirs: to pastor, teach and minister under
the authority of the Good Shepherd and Teacher, the Servant Lord.
87. All those to whom the apostles transmit their faith have
a share in their work. All are called to witness. All are called
to glorify God and intercede for the world. All are called to serve
88. In the Methodist and Catholic churches some receive by
ordination a special calling, and are consecrated and authorized
to proclaim and teach the Gospel of God's love in Jesus Christ,
to lead the worshiping community to the throne of grace and administer
the sacramental gifts of God, and to guide the life of the Church,
its care for the needy and its missionary outreach. In the Catholic
tradition these tasks are entrusted to the bishops ordained in the
apostolic succession, along with their presbyters and deacons. In
the Methodist tradition, following Wesley, ordained ministry is
held to be in succession to the apostles, although not dependent
in the same way on the succession of bishops.
Mission And Ecumenism
89. The Gospel of reconciliation requires a reconciled and
reconciling community. The Christian churches are not yet able to
carry out God's mission in unite and this is a serious obstacle
to mission. We acknowledge gratefully the fruits that our ecumenical
relationships have brought in building up our communities for mission
and in the missionary activity of our churches. Our churches should
take every opportunity for cooperation, and work and pray to overcome
the difficulties which stand in the way. We should explore the possibilities
for cooperation in service and, whenever possible, in proclamation.
The more we overcome differences in doctrine and polity, the stronger
will be our witness and the easier it will be to avoid even the
suggestion of proselytism. Nearly thirty years of dialogue between
Catholics and Methodists have revealed sufficient agreement in faith
for our churches to recognize integrity and faithfulness in each
other's proclamation of the Gospel. While large areas of agreement
between Roman Catholics and Methodists about our responsibilities
in society make much common action possible, differences remain
concerning some areas of personal and social ethics. A careful and
responsible dialogue about those differences would be fruitful,
not only for our churches but for our mission in society.
Mission And Cultures
90. For both Methodists and Catholics . the message of the
Gospel is for all times. It transcends all cultures. Yet the Gospel
- which arose in a Palestinian matrix - has been announced in the
languages of many cultures. Since salvation is for people where
they are, it is relevant to all cultures, and it should be proclaimed
in ways that are appropriate to each. Evangelization as proclamation
of the Gospel is clearly distinct from interreligious dialogue,
in which competent Christians meet with members of other religions
in order to reach better mutual understanding. Yet interreligious
dialogue itself pertains to the process of mission and the inculturation
of the Gospel, since evangelization brings Christians into contact
with cultures that have been largely shaped by other religions.
91. One may see a certain analogy between the mystery of the incarnation
and the inculturation of the Gospel. The culture that the Gospel
ought to enter and transform has, as it were, a body and a soul.
The body of a culture includes the web of social, economic, and
political structures that provide the stability without which the
higher forms of creativity could not develop. These forms - intellectual,
artistic, religious - are like the soul of a culture, a response
to the attraction of truth, beauty, and goodness for the human spirit.
They come from a thirst for a spiritual fullness which no merely
human values can provide.
92. Both the Christian evangelist and the converts coming
from non-Christian religions are challenged with an unavoidable
process of discernment. What in the cultural values, rooted in religious
aspirations, are authentic expressions of the movement of transcendence
towards the absolute truth and goodness of God? What are deviations
from it, imposing limitations on it, or even wounding some of the
deepest aspirations of the human heart?
93. The evangelist must never seek to impose the answer to
this question. He must have with his hearers the patience which
God showed to his people in the Old Testament. Through the prophets,
God gave a partial revelation of his saving purpose for the human
race, before finally communicating the fullness of that purpose
in the gift of his only Son (Heb 1:1-2; Jn 3:16). In any case the
direct proclamation of the message should not be abandoned. Interreligious
dialogue is not a substitute for evangelization, which remains an
imperative of the Gospel.
FOUR: SACRAMENTAL LIFE
The Mystery of God in Christ and the Church
94. In its 1991 report on The Apostolic Tradition,
the Commission sensed the need for deeper common reflection on the
nature of sacrament, starting from the idea of Christ himself as
" the primary sacrament" (§ 89). Bearing in mind
that one of the oldest names for sacrament is mystery' (mysterion),
Christians find a direct scriptural basis for viewing Christ in
this way in I Timothy 3:16, where Christ is referred to as "the
mystery of our religion":
was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
95. The mystery' of God is God's eternal purpose which
has now been revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a
saving design which embraces Jew and Gentile alike in the goodness
of God's final kingdom (Mk 4:1 l; Rom 16:25-27; 1 Cor 2:7-10; Eph
3:120; Col 1:25-27; 2:2-3). Christ is "the image of the invisible
God" (Col 1:15), the Father's Son upon whom the Holy Spirit
always rests (Jn 1:33). Having taken our humanity into his own person,
the Son is both the sign of our salvation and the instrument by
which it is achieved.
96. As the company of those who have been incorporated into
Christ and nourished by the life-giving Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13),
the Church may analogously be thought of in a sacramental way Precisely
as the body of Christ and the community of the Holy Spirit, the
Church may be spoken of "as a kind of sacrament, both as an
outward manifestation of God's grace among us and as signifying
in some way the grace and call to salvation addressed by God to
the whole human race"1 Constituted by God's saving grace, the
Church becomes an instrument for extending the divine offer as widely
as the scope of God's eternal purpose for humankind.
97. In such an approach, the sacraments of the Church may
be considered as particular instances of the divine Mystery being
revealed and made operative in the lives of the faithful. Instituted
by Christ and made effective by the Spirit, sacraments bring the
Mystery home Co those in whom God pleases to dwell.
98. The particular sacraments flow from the sacramental
nature of God's self-communication to us in Christ. They are specific
ways, in which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Jesus
makes his saving presence and action effective in our midst. Thus
in his public ministry Jesus did not communicate the good news of
our salvation in words alone; he addressed himself in signs and
actions to those who came to him in faith. Moreover such signs and
actions were addressed to both body and spirit. Thus he healed the
paralytic and forgave him his sins. After Christ's passion, death
and resurrection, the Savior continues his words and actions among
us by means of sacramental signs.
99. There is a two-way connection between the Church and
the sacraments. The sacraments build up the Church as the body of
Christ until its members come to their full stature; the Church
is at work through the sacraments by virtue of the mission received
from the Holy Spirit.
The Sacraments and Other Means of Grace
100. By virtue of their ecclesial nature, the sacraments
are organically related to each other. In the celebration of the
eucharist, as both word and table, the Church is built up as the
body of Christ. Into the eucharistic community one is admitted by
baptism, which identifies the believer with the death and resurrection
of Christ. Methodists and Catholics emphasize this vital connection
between ecclesial communion and the sacraments of baptism and eucharist
in different but analogous ways. Methodists affirm the full sacramental
nature of the rites of baptism and eucharist, by attributing to
Christ their direct institution. At the same time, they consider
other Christian practices, listed by Wesley himself, to be specific
means of grace. Catholics attribute primacy to baptism and eucharist
among seven sacramental rites which sustain the life of faith.
101. It is our common belief that baptism is an action of
God by which the baptized begin their life with Christ the Redeemer
and participate in his death and resurrection. As Christ is received
in faith, original sin is erased, sins are forgiven, the baptized
are justified in the eyes of God and become a new creation; with
all believers they share the communion of the Spirit; and they are
called to seek perfection in hope and in love through faithful response
to God's continuing gifts of grace. Through the ministry of the
Church baptism is given with water "in the name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Baptism is irrevocable and is
not repeated. While it is received in the context of a local church
and in a specific Christian community, it introduces people into
the universal Church of Christ and the gathering of the saints.
102. With the whole Christian tradition Methodists and Catholics
find in the New Testament the
evidence that baptism is the basic sacrament of the Gospel. They
also agree that Jesus Christ instituted the eucharist as a holy
meal, the memorial of his sacrifice. As the baptized partake of
it they share the sacrament of his body given for them and his blood
shed for them; they present and plead his sacrifice before God the
Father; and they receive the fruits of it in faith. Proclaiming,
in his risen presence, the death of the Lord until he comes, the
eucharistic assembly anticipates the final advent of Christ and
enjoys a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all peoples.
In the words of the Wesleys' Hymns on the Lord's Supper:
He bids us
eat and drink
He gives His flesh to be our meat,
And bids us drink His blood:
What'er the Almighty can
To pardoned sinners give,
The fulness of our God made man
We here with Christ receive2.
103. Meanwhile, as believers we seek to enact throughout
our lives what we celebrate in the sacraments. Thus prayers of the
Roman Missal ask that the sacraments received at Easter may "live
for ever in our minds and hearts," and that "we who have
celebrated the Easter ceremonies may hold fast to them in life and
104. Baptism, received once, and holy communion, received
regularly in the Church's liturgical festivals, are at the heart
of the life of holiness to which the faithful are called. While
they are the two biblical sacraments recognized by the Methodist
tradition, the Catholic tradition regards other holy actions of
the Church as also sacraments of the Gospel instituted by the Savior:
in them also God's grace reaches the faithful in keeping with some
of the acts and words of Jesus to which the New Testament bears
105. Catholics believe that in confirmation the gift of the
Spirit confirms what was done in baptism. The faithful who are aware
of sinning and are contrite have access to Christ the healer and
forgiver in the sacrament of reconciliation. When they are sick,
they also receive in the anointing the touch of Christ the healer.
When they marry, they marry in the Lord through a sacrament of mutual
communion in which they are given an image of the communion of all
the saints in Christ and a promise of the graces that are needed
for the fidelity which they themselves promise. In the sacrament
of orders, some of the believers are chosen and empowered to act
for Christ in the spiritual guidance of the faithful through the
preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments.
In all sacraments the power of the Spirit is at work, inviting the
believers to closer union with their Redeemer, to the glory of God
106. Although Methodists do not recognize these rites as
sacraments of the Gospel, they too affirm the active presence of
the Holy Spirit in the life of the faithful, the necessity of repentance
for sins, the power of prayer for healing, the holiness of marriage,
and the enablement by the Spirit of those who are called and ordained
for the tasks of the ministry.
107. Catholics and Methodists both recognize other means
of grace' than those they count as sacraments. These include public
and private prayer, the reading of Scripture, the singing of hymns,
fasting, and what Methodists refer to as "Christian conversation."
In the same category one may reckon the traditional works of mercy,
such as visiting the sick and serving the poor. As the faithful
meet the image of Christ in their neighbor, they acquire and develop
a sense of the pervading sacramentality of the life of faith.
Communion through The Apostolic Witness
108. The opening passage of St. John's First Letter, already
quoted to indicate what is meant by revelation (see Introduction
n.2), constitutes also the most complete statement of what the New
Testament writers understand by the Greek word koinonia (communion).
The beginning of the passage describes, in poignant terms, the privilege
enjoyed by the apostles of intimate contact with the incarnate Son
of God. St. John wants us to grasp, albeit in our limited human
perspective, something of the richness of the infinite and life-giving
love which the Father has poured out on us in the sending of the
Son and the Holy Spirit for our redemption and sanctification. He
then addresses directly those whose discipleship of Christ is to
bring them, throughout the ages and in union with the apostles,
into an intimate sharing in the communion in love of the three Persons
of the Trinity: "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim
also to you, so that you may have fellowship [koinonia] with us;
and our fellowship [koinonia] is with the Father and with his Son
Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3).
109. It is of the essence of the Church to be a sharing in
this communion of love between the three Persons of the Trinity.
The phrase ."communion with us" underlines that our own
personal sharing in this love is inseparable from our communion
with each other, because it is the nature of this love to bring
about a mutual relationship between persons created in the image
and likeness of the Triune God. The "us" here referred
to are those who have the responsibility of bringing the visible
Christian community into being through an apostolic preaching which
includes Word and Sacrament. The very existence of the Church as
a visible institution in this world becomes a manifestation of communion
with the persons of the Trinity Koinonia is thus both invisible
and visible communion in love.
110. Entering into this koinonia involves travelling the
road of the one whom the apostles heard, saw, and touched. It means,
to use other words of St. John's Letter, which John Wesley never
tired of repeating in his sermons, abiding in Christ and therefore
in the Trinity, by walking even as Christ walked (cf. I Jn 2:6).
It means entering into the glory of Trinitarian love by the way
of suffering characteristic of the paschal mystery We can become,
through the Holy Spirit, joint heirs of God with Christ says St.
Paul, "if we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified
with him." (Rom 8:17). In other words, the mystery of Trinitarian
communion in love, when it touches our lives, changes our way of
living into conformity with Christ. The change must penetrate every
area of our lives and, in particular, the practicalities of the
service of others, by which Christ is still visible to us: "as
you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it
to me." (Mt 25:40).
Basic Expressions Of Communion In Our Churches
111. Our life with the triune God and with one another is
expressed in various embodiments of communion in our churches. To
some extent our living of this communion is restricted to the still
separate lives of our Catholic and Methodist communities. Our ultimate
goal is that there should be full ecclesial communion between us.
As a move in that direction, we should acknowledge some of the vital
elements in the partial communion we already enjoy, while also delineating
some of the problematic differences on which further work needs
to be done.
112. As Roman Catholics and as Methodists we live from the
same Gospel, the apostolic message of God's saving acts in Jesus
Christ, and we share the same faith. This faith is rooted in the
Scriptures which are the common ground of our preaching and teaching
as Christian churches. It is summarized by the creeds of the early
Church, especially the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed which
we confess regularly in our worship.
113. But we share not only a common root or source of our
faith; we recognize in each other the same readiness to respond
to the proclamation of the Gospel. In the past Methodists tended
to see the faith of Roman Catholics merely as an assent to what
the Church teaches, whereas Catholics sometimes thought Methodist
belief to be a purely emotional personal conviction. These prejudices
have been overcome. Faith is always personal but never private,
for faith incorporates the believing individual into the community
of faith. Therefore his or her faith is both a personal conviction
and also a sharing of what is held by the community of the
believers'. At the same time, to believe in God and the salvation
which he has wrought for us is the living response of the whole
life of the believer and changes our lives in every respect; it
is personal, living faith. Our traditions may stress the corporate
and the individual aspects of faith differently but both are common
114. While we are agreed on the existence of a common faith
between us (cf. above, Section Two, II), problems arise when we
seek to define the distinctive teachings which are necessary to
constitute the full communion of faith which would unite our churches.
115. Methodists have learned from John Wesley to discern
between, on the one hand, different "opinions" about manners
of worship, about ecclesiastical polity or even about the exposition
of certain scriptural truths and, on the other, the essential doctrines
of the Gospel. "Opinions" are by no means unimportant
and at least within the Methodist connection there should be as
much agreement on them as possible. But for the communion of faith
with other Christians the unity in regard to the "essentials"
is decisive, and not the differences of "opinions". Such
essential doctrines are: the Three-One God; the divine creation
of the world and the vocation of humankind to holiness and happiness;
the incarnation and atoning work of God the Son; the work of the
Spirit as source of all truth, renewal and communion; the need of
fallen humankind to repent and to believe the gospel; the divine
provision of grace through word and sacrament and the institution
and gathering of the Church; the summons to love of God and neighbor;
and the promise of a final judgment and victory where all the redeemed
will share in glorifying and enjoying God for ever. The Methodist
churches did not establish a fixed canon' of these essentials
of Christian faith; but whenever the question of the communion of
faith with other churches is put, these elements will be vital for
116. The Roman Catholic Church is at one with the Methodists
over these essential doctrines, but emphasizes that the whole teaching
of the Church constitutes an organic unity Its members are therefore
called upon to believe the full teaching of the Church. But within
the ecumenical dialogue also the "hierarchy of truths'
of Catholic doctrine should always be respected; these truths all
demand due assent of faith, yet are not all equally central to the
mystery revealed in Jesus Christ, since they vary in their connection
with the foundation of the Christian faith"4. This may be helpful
when we discuss those doctrines which are important for the teaching
and spirituality of the Catholic Church, but which will not be easily
accepted by Methodists, e.g. the teaching about Mary in relation
to Christ and the Church. We will be able to deal with controversial
issues without concealing or diminishing what has been already achieved
in a common understanding of the Gospel despite some differences
which still remain. These should be the subject of further investigation.
117. Communion with God and with one another is lived and
experienced by word and sacrament in the worship of the Christian
community. In praise and prayer we share the wonderful deeds of
God as well as all human joy and the needs which arise among us.
Listening to the Word of God brings us together as a community of
those who look to God's creative and redemptive Word for all their
118. The sacramental life of the Church expresses this communion
with God and with one another in a profound way. The sacraments
are at one and the same time effective signs of God's fellowship
with his people and of the fellowship of the people of God with
one another. Baptism and eucharist, the sacraments which are common
to almost all Christian churches, show this most clearly Those who
are baptised receive a share in the death of the one Lord Jesus
Christ and in the power of his resurrection; at the same time they
are baptised into the one body, the body of Christ with its many
members who suffer and rejoice together. At the table of the Lord's
Supper the "cup of blessing" is "a participation
in the blood of Christ" and "the bread which we break"
is "a participation in the body of Christ", therefore
"we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one
bread" (I Cor 10:16-17). "Discerning the body" (I
Cor 11:29) means both to recognize the reality of our communion
with Christ and to be responsible for the fellowship with brothers
and sisters in the Lord.
119. We encourage ongoing discussion at the appointed levels
wherever formal mutual recognition of baptism between our churches
is still lacking. We are happy that this recognition has already
taken place in many regions. Methodists welcome Roman Catholics
to their celebration of the Lord's Supper, but they have to respect
the fact that participation in communion is still not permissible
for Roman Catholics. In some pastoral circumstances Catholics are
able to invite Methodists to take part in their Eucharist5. The
very desire of many people to take part at the Lord's table with
Christians of other Churches is a sign of a fellowship which looks
forward with longing to a full communion not yet attained.
120. Roman Catholics and Methodists are agreed on the provision
of an ordained ministry within the communion of the Church to safeguard
and foster its common life. Together we recognize that Christ the
Good Shepherd shares his pastoral care with others. Those who are
called to exercise this care in the ordained ministry receive their
particular responsibility from him. They are appointed as witnesses
to the living truth of the message entrusted to them, guides of
the community that responds to the Gospel they proclaim, and providers
of the life of worship that should be offered in communion by the
whole Church. Yet the communion that we seek to establish between
Roman Catholics and Methodists finds at this point its most visible
obstacle: we cannot share in Eucharistic communion because we identify
differently the ministers who bear this corporate responsibility
in space and time, and the kind of teaching authority committed
to them. Progress towards full communion depends on the results
that can be obtained from the study of this issue.
121. Behind our differences we thankfully confess that we
are able to see common ground: all our sacramental life is rooted
in Jesus Christ the "primary sacrament", whose incarnation
and death is the deepest sign of God's communion with all the anxieties
and needs of humankind and whose life and resurrection is the model
and the source of power for our living together in love and mutual
122. Christian worship is not only constituted by word and
sacrament but also by the mutual care of brothers and sisters for
one another and for all who are in need. "God's love has been
poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5) and
this love binds us together and enables us to love our neighbor
as ourselves. This aspect of Christian communion has been especially
important for the Methodist movement since the days of John Wesley.
Methodists have tried to fulfill this task in small groups gathering
regularly for mutual confession, exhortation, encouragement and
prayer. The forms have changed over the years; but the challenge
to live this dimension of Christian fellowship is as urgent as ever.
We are happy to see that in both our churches this task has been
recognized and efforts have been made, sometimes jointly, to meet
the need for such a worship in the midst of our daily life.
123. Christian communion as koinonia necessarily includes
communion in mission. It is communion with God, who sent his Son
to reconcile the world and sent his Spirit to restore in human beings
the image of God. Communion in mission is at the same time the fellowship
of those who are sent by their risen Lord and who are empowered
by his Spirit to be witnesses of God's love and peace throughout
the world. Our proclaiming of God's love includes witness of word
and deed, by preaching and serving, by struggling for justice and
suffering with the oppressed. We draw attention to what we have
already said above in Section Three.
124. We readily admit that in the past we have so often worked
without one another or even against one another. This has weakened
our witness and has hindered the mission of God. We seek God's forgiveness
for our faults and our shortcomings.
125. We have found considerable convergence in our understanding
of the Church's mission in the world, such that increasingly Methodists
and Catholics are able to work together for those they are called
to serve. And we hope that communion in mission will also further
our communion in worship and in faith. We work and pray for a growing
communion between our churches, not because such unity is an end
in itself, making life more comfortable and easy for us. Its goals
are "that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21) and "that,
together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6).
The Church Universal
126. Christian communion is more than the fellowship of the
members of the same congregation or the same local community. The
Church of God has universal dimensions in regard to both time and
space. Our Lord's prayer for his disciples, "that they may
be one" (Jn 17:1 1) was not only meant to bring unite to those
Christian disciples who lived together at the same time. When Jesus
prayed "for those who believe in me through their word"
(Jn 17:20) he spoke about the unity and continuity of the Church
throughout the generations. Communion means therefore also communion
with the Church of those who preceded us in the faith throughout
127. Although we may differ in our evaluations about what
have been signs of faithfulness and perseverance in the Church's
history we certainly agree that God's faithfulness has preserved
his Church despite the faults, errors and shortcomings evident in
128. In the same way we acknowledge the importance of a structure
which binds together local churches to testify to the global nature
of the Gospel and of the Church universal. But we have different
perceptions about the nature and the theological weight of those
129. The Roman Catholic Church relies on the promise
which it believes to have been given to St. Peter and the Apostles
(see eg. Mt 16:18) and to have been fulfilled throughout history
in the apostolic succession and the episcopal college together with
its head, the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter. The
hierarchical structure of the Church is an important means and guarantee
given by God's grace to preserve the continuity and universality
of the Catholic Church.
130. Methodist churches see the continuity of the apostolic
tradition preserved by the faithfulness to the apostolic teaching.
The teaching office which decides what is faithful and what is not
lies in the hands of conciliar bodies, the Conferences. All Methodist
churches recognize the necessity of a ministry of episcopè,
oversight', and in many Methodist churches this is expressed
in the office of bishop (cf. Towards a Statement on the Church,
§§ 31-34). Local churches are bound together by connectional
structures which have to mediate the needs of local churches and
of the Church as a whole. Methodists anticipate that more unity
and a growing communion between churches of different traditions
may be achieved by new conciliar structures. Obviously Roman Catholics
and Methodists share a common concern regarding the Church universal
as an expression of communion in Christ. But they differ widely
in their beliefs about the means which God has given to attain or
preserve this goal. These differences may be the greatest hindrances
on the way to full communion.
131. The Joint Commission between the Roman Catholic Church
and the World Methodist Council has existed for thirty years. Its
work has passed through at least two generations. The first need
was for mutual acquaintance; and for a decade and more, the Commission
engaged in this by way of self-introduction and the preliminary
tackling together of doctrinal, ethical and pastoral issues that
were being faced on the wider ecumenical scene. A second stage developed
as the attempt was made to sketch broad theological perspectives,
acceptable to both Roman Catholics and Methodists, in which it would
eventually become possible to treat the matters which divide us.
The Commission believes that a considerable commonality of outlook
has been established in the areas of Pneumatology (1981 Report),
Ecclesiology (1986 Report), the Apostolic Tradition (1991 Report),
and now Revelation and Faith (1996 Report).
132. The time may have come for concentration, in the directions
thus shown, on some of those more detailed questions that have recurrently
caused difficulty among us. In particular, future study could address
the related topics of pastoral and doctrinal authority, the offices
of oversight in the Church and succession in them, and the offer
made by Rome of a Petrine ministry in the service of unity and communion.
We should thus be encouraged to pursue, more immediately and at
a deeper level, the understanding that we both have of ourselves
and of our partners in respect to the one Church of Jesus Christ
and the communion which belongs to the body of Christ.
[Information Service 92 (1996/III) 108-125]
1. Joint Commission
between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council,
Towards a Statement on the Church, 1986, § 9, referring to
Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,
2. John and Charles Wesley, Hymns on the Lord's Supper (1745), n.
3. See the Prayer after Communion for the Second Sunday of Easter
("ut paschalis perceptio sacramenti continua in nostris mentibus
perseveret"), and the Opening Prayer for Saturday in the Seventh
Week of Easter ("ut qui paschalia festa peregimus haec moribus
et vita teneamus").
4. Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory /br
the Application o(Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993) §
75, cf. Annotates Reintegration § 11.
5. See the principles and norms which Catholic bishops apply in
this matter, in: Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,
Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism
(1993), §§ 104-107; 129-131.
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