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VI. Conclusion 
   Appendix 1: PARTICIPANTS
   Appendix 2: PAPERS

VI. Conclusion

A. Introduction

263. In this fifth round of dialogue between Pentecostals and Catholics at the international level, we have come to appreciate each other in new ways.

264. We have explored together different aspects of what is involved in becoming a Christian. We have studied and been able to appreciate together the powerful insights of Scripture, the witness of the patristic sources to the Gospel, and the ways in which the Gospel instructs us about conversion, faith, discipleship, experience and the receiving of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are foundational for both of us. We can appreciate, although in different ways, the Fathers of the church as early witnesses and interpreters to faith in Jesus Christ, and to the dimensions of life in Christ.

B. The Witness of the Bible

265. Together we have learned that in our reading of the Holy Scripture we both interpret the Bible within the horizon of our respective traditions. Both of us, even if in different ways, would acknowledge being governed by the Word of God. Pentecostals tend to hold to the classical Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. Both Catholics and Pentecostals honor the authority of Scripture, and both look for ways in which Tradition carries biblical truth. Future discussion should focus not only on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, but also on our respective understandings of the relationship of both Scripture and Tradition to the Word of God. This might be profitable for our dialogue especially since Pentecostal scholars have sought to identify a distinctive Pentecostal biblical hermeneutic and Catholics have been renewed in their approach to Scripture since the Second Vatican Council.

C. The Witness of the Fathers

266. This phase of dialogue was the first in which Pentecostals and Catholics jointly studied the teaching and witness of the early post-biblical Christian writings, the Fathers of the church. What benefits have we gained from this? In many ways we can see the same challenges facing us today, in their personal struggles and in their efforts to ensure that the apostolic faith is properly taught and handed on. In them we witness the great work of ensuring the handing on of the Christian faith, from biblical times and cultures to new centuries and different cultures.

267. We have seen their own personal struggles and crises as they seek to follow Christ, and even the role of family in fostering life and faith (Augustine, The Confessions). We have seen the reflections of some facing and welcoming martyrdom for the sake of Christ (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans). We have heard them speaking even poetically of the way the faith took hold of them (“a flame kindled in my soul” Justin, Dialogue with Trypho). Hilary of Poitiers spoke of the experience of intense joy “when we feel within us the final stirrings of the Holy Spirit” (Tract on the Psalms). We see them celebrating the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit, Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures).

268. As the church grew, the patristic writings illustrate the missionary spirit of the Fathers against the ideologies of their time (Justin, Apology) similar to struggles we have today. We see them, through their writings, preparing people to celebrate the great seasons of Lent (Cyril of Jerusalem) and Easter (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition). We hear their teaching on the proper celebration and understanding of the sacrament of baptism (Didache 7, Irenaeus of Lyon, Proof of the Apostolic Teaching). We see their writing on the intimate relations between baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Origin, Commentary on John 6:33). They wrote, of course, on many other aspects of the spiritual gifts and the life of the church.

269. In summary we have seen that there are patristic texts which can cast light on each of the issues we considered (conversion, faith, Christian experience in community, discipleship and formation, and Baptism in the Holy Spirit). These texts arise from the Fathers’ reflections on the Scriptures and frequently provide insight and wisdom to contemporary questions and situations. Moreover, they remain relevant to contemporary experience. The writings of the Fathers are not library treasures from centuries ago. Their words are vibrant witnesses to Christians of today, and of every time. Through this dialogue, Pentecostals and Catholics have seen together the richness of that witness and can share it with their respective communities today.

270. This study of the early post-biblical Christian writings, many of which were written in those early centuries, which some call the Constantinian era, can be an initial step in dialogue between us on historical questions which are at the root of the Pentecostal views of Restorationism. This important issue awaits another phase of international dialogue.

D. What We Have Learned from Our Contemporary Reflections

271. In the course of our discussion, we have noted a fascinating parallel in the different ways our respective communities have experienced the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century. Pentecostals report that on January 1, 1901 baptism in the Holy Spirit and praying in tongues broke through in Topeka, Kansas and spread in increasing measure. In Rome, on that same day, Pope Leo XIII entrusted the new century to the Holy Spirit (Veni Sancte Spiritus). Responding to prophetic requests from within the Catholic Church, Pope Leo had already written an Apostolic Exhortation in 1895 and an Encyclical in 1897 in which he called for devotion to the Holy Spirit and recommended the nine days before Pentecost as a novena of prayer for the Holy Spirit aimed at the renewal of the church and of society, the reunification of Christianity and a “renewal of the face of the earth”.

272. For Pentecostals an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street (Los Angeles) in 1906 marks a significant beginning of the Pentecostal movement which has grown throughout the century, affecting millions of believers. Within the Catholic Church signs of the Holy Spirit are seen in various movements: biblical, liturgical, theological, ecumenical, and charismatic, which have developed during the twentieth century fostering renewal in basic aspects of Christian faith and life. A certain culmination of these movements resulted in the Second Vatican Council which Catholics believe was inspired by the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of the Council, Pope John XXIII prayed that it be a new Pentecost. The Council fostered renewal in faith, prayer, spiritual life, Christian unity – signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 1989 the new awareness of the Holy Spirit was fostered by Pope John Paul II with his Encyclical Dominum et vivificantem on the Holy Spirit. At the vigil of Pentecost in 1998 in Rome, the acknowledgment of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit led Pope John Paul II, meeting 400,000 members of Catholic spiritual movements, to declare that: “We could say, what happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago is renewed in this square tonight. As the apostles then, so we find ourselves together in this Upper Room, full of longing and praying for the out-pouring of the Spirit”.

273. At one critical point these parallel impulses found in two different communities began to interrelate and converge. In 1967, the witness of the Pentecostal Movement fostered the initiation of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Movement have had contact ever since. The influence of the new ecumenical commitment of the Catholics, as part of the ecumenical movement which the Second Vatican Council insisted is “fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit” (UR 1), helped open the way to a dialogue for mutual respect and reconciliation between Pentecostals and Catholics. First running parallel to and separate from one another, the Pentecostal movement and the Catholic Church have had more contact than previously. They are no longer entirely separated. They have begun to interrelate through dialogue, friendship and co-operation; they have engaged each other in partnership for nearly thirty-five years.

274. In acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our traditions, we have been better able to learn from each other. Therefore, we are grateful that the renewal and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century has opened our hearts and minds to one another. In God’s providence we believe that the emergence of Pentecostal / Charismatic movements along with the Ecumenical movement in the twentieth century calls us to a dialogue between our communions that is spiritual as well as theological. Much of our theological engagement with one another focused on the implications of our respective views of faith, conversion and discipleship for the Christian life. This is as it should be and we believe that the recognition of this is vital for practical ecumenism at the local level between Catholic parishes and Pentecostal congregations.

275. As we have read and studied the church Fathers together we have become even more mindful of our contemporary theological responsibilities. Inspired by their example of combining pastoral care with theological insight, the praise of God with the knowledge of God, and holiness of life with doctrinal orthodoxy, we too seek to serve our respective communities in the same spirit. It is particularly in regard to evangelization, discipleship and Christian formation, and openness to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that we desire to exercise our theological and pastoral tasks.

276. Our discussions on the nature of Christian conversion in the ancient church, and especially on the relationship between event and process, have illuminated our own understanding of what transpires in our churches today. We are cautioned against being too quick to judge what has or has not taken place in the various testimonies and narratives of conversion that we have witnessed in our communities. Most importantly, we see the need for a clear call to conversion, a conversion to Jesus Christ that should be at the heart of our proclamation and witness to the world. We are well aware that even in our churches believers need to hear this message so that Christian profession may be authentic and may lead to maturity and growth in the Christian life.

277. Likewise we are impressed by the ongoing life of conversion and discipleship in the ancient church. For all the topics and themes we discussed we attempted to reflect on their significance for our ecclesial communions today. It was clear that the writings of the church Fathers reflect a vibrant exercise of the faith in their churches and a profound apprehension of the depths of the Christian life. Although we differed on the importance of the sacramental mediation of grace we can only consider their witness as an incentive for our own churches today to grow in maturity and holiness. We also agree that ongoing Christian formation must be an intentional process in our churches, mindful that for the seed of God’s Word to bear fruit requires openness to that Word and a willingness to respond obediently to it in Christian and ecclesial life.

278. Since both of our traditions value the experience of grace as an important dimension of faith and spirituality we have come to appreciate the respective charismatic, mystical and liturgical emphasis of the Pentecostal and Catholic communities. We have also learned that one cannot simply oppose these two modalities of Christian experience. Each has some experience of what has traditionally been prized by the other. This affords us another way forward in our dialogue, as “spiritual ecumenism” becomes more and more the basis for theological conversations. Most of all spiritual discernment alerts us to the providential possibilities that God offers in his freedom and grace towards us.

279. Finally, we return to our appreciation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century which Pentecostals believe is a gift for the whole church. Our discussion of “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” focused on this distinctive trait of Pentecostal spirituality which is also experienced within the Catholic Church. While we did not arrive at a theological consensus concerning Baptism in the Holy Spirit, we do recognize that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, including the charismata, was not unfamiliar to the ancient church and is a source of renewal for the contemporary church. We have learned that while theological evaluation and judgement is necessary, this can only be in service of the Spirit’s work, never to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19). Together we desire to hold fast to what is good (1 Thess 5:21) and follow the Spirit’s lead (Gal 5:25) in the days and years to come.

E. Proposals for Future Dialogue

 280. Underlying these results of our dialogue emerge various issues which we have not yet been able to address with the attention they deserve and which could serve as promising points of departure for future dialogue. For example, one theme dear to the first leaders of the various Pentecostal churches and movements was that the recovery of Baptism in the Holy Spirit signaled a restoration of the church of the time of the apostles. This explanation is premised upon the judgment that, at a certain point in history after the apostolic age, the original and authentic apostolic community fell into decay and eventually ceased to exist. Catholics and Pentecostals disagree about such an assessment of history. Future dialogue should take up this crucial question of how we read history in different ways and explore why we do so.

281. A second topic which has emerged from our consideration of Baptism in the Holy Spirit within the context of becoming a Christian concerns the nature and role of water baptism, to which could be added those other ritual actions which Catholics call sacraments and some of which Pentecostals call ordinances. The present phase of dialogue has recorded some degree of convergence about the need for water baptism and for participation in the Lord’s Supper as part of the full meaning of becoming a Christian. In light of this, the clarification of what is normative for becoming a Christian and/or for Christian Initiation should be a matter for future dialogue.

282. Third, we have considered the evidence attesting that one has truly received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Such evidence is addressed to the Christian community and raises the question of how the church is equipped by God to discern authentic graced experience and, by way of extension, also authentic orthodox doctrine. The need for discernment concerning experience and doctrine naturally raises the question of the role of authority within the church.

283. Such issues as these – a restorationist view of Christian history, the nature of sacraments or ordinances, and the exercise of authority within the church, in addition to our varying principles for interpreting Scripture– are all significant issues raised by our discussion of the five dimensions of becoming a Christian treated in this phase of dialogue. They remain “unresolved” issues between us which still need further serious reflection. Whether they can be “resolved” in the sense of becoming matters about which we can arrive at consensus can only come to light through further dialogue and the assistance of the Holy Spirit. But we clearly have much more to talk about as we seek to obey the sentiment expressed in Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one.”

F. A Final Word

284. Finally, each of us has learned a great deal about the ways in which the other fosters faith, conversion, discipleship and formation, understands experience, and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. As we reflected on the scriptures and to the witness of the early church writers, and as we heard the way our partners in this dialogue engage in fostering the Christian life in those who come to the faith, we recognize in each other a deep commitment to Christ. Although Pentecostals and Catholics may give different emphases on aspects of becoming a Christian, each fosters the Christian life for the glory of God. Knowing this helps overcome misunderstandings or stereotypes we may have had about each other. It follows that this calls Catholics and Pentecostals to examine their conscience about the way they have sometimes described one another in the past, for example calling the other a “non-Christian” or a member of a “sect”. We have found much that we share together. Although we have significant differences still on some questions, we are able because of our study in this dialogue, to call one another brothers and sisters in Christ.

285. We hope that this phase of dialogue has helped this relationship to grow. We ask God’s blessing on our continuing dialogue that it will be for the glory of His name.


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