Our sub-committee on Prayer and Spirituality took its beginning
from a recommendation in the interim report made at Rabat in September,
1969. Two themes for further study were suggested because of their
"particular scope" for making the dialogue an occasion for "common
witness to great Christian values". One of these themes was, "Christian
Life and Spirituality - Holiness of Heart and Life". The report
expanded this theme in the following words:
would examine the genesis of Methodism as a movement of personal,
spiritual renewal, and its emphasis on the social implications
of perfect love. Development of the theme might include consideration
of the priesthood of all believers, the universal call to holiness,
the Holy Spirit and grace, the meaning of prayer, the relation
of liturgical prayer to personal piety, the spiritual life, devotion
to the Sacred Heart, Marian devotion, devotion to the Saints,
monasticism, the Pentecostalist phenomenon among Catholics and
Methodists, attention to the Word as a constitutive element of
the spiritual life, the complementary relation of the interior
life and the life of good works. The treatment should reflect
the current practice of Methodists and Roman Catholics, as well
as providing a historical and theological development.
The first meeting of the sub-committee was held at Raleigh in December,
1969. Results of the study of this sub-committee were available
for the final meeting of the Joint Commission at Lake Junaluska
in August, 1970. The subject might well have been broached earlier,
since its importance was early realized. In one of the opening papers
at Ariccia, in 1967, it had been pointed out that, Catholics and
Methodists have always had one very important thing in common, though
they have not fully realized it: ... the conviction of John Wesley
that each man has a duty to seek holiness and Christian perfection".
Personal sanctification and growth in holiness through daily life
were seen as prominent in both traditions. The Methodist view of
"entire sanctification", that is, sanctification of everything in
daily life and work, met the Catholic view of the continuous growth
in perfection which makes up the whole progress of the spiritual
life. The disciplined life of the early Methodists recalled the
ascetism of the early Jesuits.
Both Methodists and Roman Catholics found common ground from agreement
in the universal call to holiness which helped to confirm what one
of the speakers at Ariccia saw as, "the discovery of meaningful
harmony between Wesley's ‘evangelical catholicism' and the spirit
of Vatican II". Following the recommendation made at Malta, the
discussion on spirituality was taken up in terms of both the historical
background of the two traditions and their contemporary situation.
Investigation of the historical dimension gave special emphasis
to the nineteenth century in both Methodist and Roman Catholic spirituality.
Here, again, in spite of some differences, it could be seen that
Catholics and Methodists shared a wider, deeper, richer heritage
of Christian spirituality than might have been suspected. This heritage
is rightly called, "Life in the Spirit". In it, we find common roots
in mutual reverence for Scripture, in mutual stress on conversion
and renewal, in mutual insistence that "heart religion" shall find
expression in social action, in mutual concern for the Christian
home and family as the ‘domestic Church'.
Out of their separate traditions, both Methodists and Roman Catholics
come together as they recognize God's gracious prevenience, and
as they express belief in Jesus Christ as God's Love Incarnate and
the Holy Spirit as God with us. Both traditions hold man's cooperation
with God in the mystery of salvation as necessary; both look upon
life itself as liturgy. Both traditions converge in "compatible
definitions of goals for the Christian life (however disparate the
means and uneven the results), a dynamic process of growth in grace,
from the threshold of faith (justification) toward the fullness
of faith (sanctification) - by means of affective patterns of moral
and spiritual discipline (ascesis), charismatic gifts and outpourings,
sacrificial love and service as ‘effective signs' of faith's professions
and of pious feeling".
A study of the historical background of Methodist and Roman Catholic
spirituality leads to the conclusion that what has mattered most
in both traditions has been the reality of religion as it brings
about the transformation of man's heart and mind in everyday living.
In our conversations, we saw that here was the meaning of the theo
cordis, by which we come to know the crucified and risen Christ
as Lord and Savior and the Spirit present in us and in the Church.
The contemporary situation
It is not enough in ecumenical dialogue to look to the past for
the comfort of a common heritage of spirituality. For this reason,
a further study was made of current trends in both Methodist and
Roman Catholic prayer and spirituality. This was found to be necessary
since Christians, too, are, in a sense, "men of our time". As such,
they are faced with both the threat and the challenge which the
contemporary situation offers to Christian spirituality.
The negative aspects of the contemporary situation have been considered
separately in this report (Cf. § 30). The conversations on prayer
and spirituality also brought to light a number of positive factors
which exist in the world today. Some of these touch on personal
relations and contribute to the development of spirituality through
their worth for human existence. Others reveal a call to spirituality
in the frustrations, the emptiness and the boredom which man experiences
in many phases of daily life and culture. The void in the world
he has constructed is, itself, a plea for fulfilment that must come
from beyond man. The contemporary situation, betrays man's thirst
for the God whom he strives to find, often unknowingly - at times,
even while rejecting him.
At least three trends in spirituality have been discerned recently,
suggesting that there are possibilities for a creative response
on the part of the Church and the Christian in facing the contemporary
world. In the first place, there is a search for prayer as contemplation.
This search reveals our deep need of God, our longing for salvation,
our eagerness to know and to do God's will as revealed in Jesus
Christ. Secondly, there is a call for compassion. This call is addressed
to the Church which is dedicated to the primary mission of guiding
persons in corporate action and in the works of justice, truth and
love. Finally, there is a desire for community. This desire gives
witness to the fact that we are to be saved as a people. It recognizes
also that the Churches must pray and work together toward the true
unity, wherever and whenever this is possible.
Such a creative response as that suggested above can be assured
only if the Church and all members of the Church realize the importance
of inner renewal. Through constant renewal, the Church will become
truly catholic, evangelical and reformed. The Church will be catholic
in knowing how to express what is universal in the Christian message
of God's love for all men. It will be evangelical in reaching out
effectively to share this good news by word and by responsible living
in community. It will be reformed in willing to engage in self-criticism
and to weed out the inauthentic in thought and practice.
The discussion on spirituality led us to agree that the Churches
must proclaim community by showing the way through compassion and
contemplation in Christian living to communion-in-unity. Spirituality
in the Church must be a witness to the capacity of men to live as
human beings and as Christians in the institutions and structures
of contemporary society and under all the conditions which go to
make up the contemporary situation.
We acknowledge with gratitude and joy the discovery of a vision
shared by Methodists and Roman Catholics in our understanding of
prayer and spirituality in the Christian life. The study which led
to this discovery, however, did not treat every facet of this topic
in the same manner.
For example, to countless Roman Catholics, devotion to Mary is an
integral and important part of their Christian experience and of
the "Life in the Spirit". For Methodists, on the other hand, the
dogmatic status of Roman Catholic doctrines concerning the Mother
of our Lord was identified at Ariccia as one of three "hard-core
issues of radical disagreement" between the two traditions. Neither
the positive nor the negative side of Mariology was treated in the
study of spirituality covered by this report. No special attention
was given to the restatement of the Marian question effected by
The Junaluska report referred to common Methodist-Roman Catholic
reverence for Scripture and to the eucharistic foundation of both
traditions of spirituality. Both of these marks were accepted without
question as implicitly basic to the study. This acceptance, however,
did not take up the questions or state the real ambiguities which
rise out of certain attitudes toward Scripture and Eucharist, at
times, in the two traditions (Cf. Section V and VII).
At the end of the discussions on spirituality, Methodists found
that inadequate treatment had been given to two strong traditions
in their devotional history: that of hymnody-particularly as seen
in the eucharistic hymns of Charles Wesley-and that of the koinonia
- as carried on in the class meetings. Roman Catholics were quick
to admit that they had much to gain from a better knowledge of these
two facets of Methodist spirituality.
There was general agreement too that the question of communion in
sacris and the possibility of sharing in the Lord's Supper ought
properly to have been raised in relation to the discussion of spirituality,
as much as in any other areas of ecumenical concern.
The great wealth found in the common heritage and shared vision
discovered by both Methodists and Roman Catholics during our conversations
on prayer and spirituality led the members of the commission to
see the need for a continued education along this line. They strongly
recommend that programs be begun to assure mutual enrichment at
every level on this topic.
We add some practical suggestions which are addressed especially
to the concerns expressed by the commission elsewhere in this report
Informal colloquies, such as those held at Cambridge, ought to
be devoted to the study of spirituality.
We need continued opportunities for discussion together on the
different sacramental and nonsacramental ways of fostering spirituality
in both traditions.
There is a need for devotional material which can be shared by
both traditions to help the general body of the faithful in their
use of the Bible and prayer in everyday life.
Means must be taken to make it possible to share such practices
as lay missions.
We need to study the problem of wide-spread communication in view
of promoting a fuller understanding of our common heritage of
"Scriptural holiness ".
We must learn how to deal with the old suspicions and gradually
do away with them-for example, the Catholic rejection of what
seems to be a life-refusing attitude in certain disciplinary practices
We must learn how to develop common devotion, such as the Methodist
devotion to the five wounds of the crucified and risen Lord alongside
the Roman Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and,
in this matter, to be mutually enriched.
Practical means must be found to help both Methodists and Roman
Catholics move into a growth in their devotional life with balance
and vitality. Such means might include shared retreats, small
prayer or Bible study groups, groups of Christian response to
all areas of human experience, shared devotional and instructional
material, shared facilities for Christian and spiritual education
at all levels.