Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > PE-RC > Perspectives on Koinonia (Introduction)


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Report from the Third Quinquennium of the Dialogue between the
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and
Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders


  1. This is a report of conversations held on the international level between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity1 and some classical Pentecostal churches and leaders. It contains the results of the third phase of dialogue held 1985-1989.

  2. Contacts for the dialogue were initiated in 1969 and 1970. Among the topics discussed during the first quinquennium (1972-1976) were Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christian Initiation and the Charisms, Scripture and Tradition, and The Human Person and the Gifts. In the second quinquennium (1977-1982) consideration was given to Faith and Religious Experience, Speaking in Tongues, and Mary. The co-chairpersons during this third quinquennium, 1985-1989, were the Rev. Kilian McDonnell, osb, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA and the Rev. Justus T. du Plessis of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa. The conversations dealt with the subject of the Church as Koinonia.

  3. The Rev. David J. du Plessis chaired the Pentecostal delegation during the first two phases of the dialogue. Indeed, the origin of the international Pentecostal/Roman Catholic dialogue, almost twenty years ago, owes much to initiatives he took during and after the Second Vatican Council. David du Plessis continued to take part in the third phase of the dialogue, providing important insights to our deliberations, until his death in 1987. The dialogue commission acknowledges, with gratitude to God, David du Plessis' important contribution to the origin and continuation of our work.

  4. This particular series of discussions has been noted for the growing acceptance of the dialogue by the world-wide Pentecostal community. For the first time several Pentecostal churches authorized the participation of officially appointed representatives to the dialogue. These churches include: the Apostolic Church of Mexico (1986); the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (1985-1989); the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee, USA) (1985-1988); the Church of God of Prophecy, USA (1986-1988); the Independent Assemblies of God International, USA (1987); the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, USA (1985-1989); the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, USA (1986).

  5. Although the unity of the Church is a concern of Pentecostals and Roman Catholics alike, the dialogue has not had as its goal or its subject, either organic or structural union. These discussions were meant to develop a climate of mutual understanding in matters of faith and practice; to find points of genuine agreement as well as to indicate areas in which further dialogue is required. We hope that further theological convergence will appear as we continue to explore issues together.

  6. Building upon the groundwork laid in the previous two series of discussions, this phase of dialogue focused upon the theme of koinonia. At its 1985 meeting in Riano, Italy, discussion was directed to the subject of the "Communion of the Saints." In Sierra Madre, California, USA, during 1986, the subject was "The Holy Spirit and the New Testament Vision of Koinonia." Discussion was directed toward the relationship of sacraments to koinonia, in 1987 and 1988. At the meeting in Venice, Italy in 1987, the Dialogue focused upon "Koinonia, Church, and Sacraments" emphasizing the place of the Eucharist, while in its 1988 meeting at Emmetten, Switzerland, the discussion was on "Koinonia and Baptism." During the 1989 meeting in Rome we summarized our findings in this report. The presentation of the findings in this report follows a more systematic order than the chronological sequence in which the topics were discussed.

  7. The theme of Koinonia was chosen for several reasons. First, the subject of "Communion of Saints" emerged from the portions of the discussions in the second phase of dialogue which had centered on Mary. Participants in the second phase believed that the topic of "communion" was pregnant with possibilities. Second, they also realized that the larger worldwide ecumenical dialogue was viewing the topic of "communion" with interest and expectation.

  8. Koinonia has been an important topic for discussion in a number of international dialogues, for example, in the Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue; the second phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International dialogue; the Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue; the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue; the Baptist-Roman Catholic dialogue; and the Disciples of Christ-Roman Catholic dialogue.

  9. The theme of Koinonia is proving fruitful in the reflection about ecclesiological self-understanding in many Christian churches and communions, as for example in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran World Federation.2

  10. During the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized the ecclesiology of communion. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which met in 1985 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, recognized the importance given to the notion of communion by the Council. In Pentecostal teaching, koinonia is understood as an essential aspect of church life as it relates to the Church's ministry to the world and to the relationships of Christians to one another. Both the Roman Catholics and Pentecostals therefore, have come to appreciate the biblical importance of koinonia as portrayed in Acts 2:42: "they [Christians] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship [koinonia], to the breaking of bread and the prayers."3

  11. One of the difficulties we faced in our discussions was the historical difference between the development of the doctrine of the Church in Roman Catholicism and in the various Pentecostal traditions. Roman Catholics have a centuries-long tradition of ecclesiological reflection; the Pentecostal Movement is less than a century old and has had little opportunity to engage in sustained theological reflection on ecclesiology. Although Pentecostals do not possess a developed ecclesiology, they do embrace a variety of ecclesiological polities, and they hold strongly to certain basic ecclesiological convictions (e.g. the importance of the local congregation). These convictions have been brought to bear on the various issues discussed.

  12. While all dialogue participants have sought to represent their church's positions faithfully, the views expressed in this document are those of the joint commission, which now offers its work to the sponsoring bodies.


  1. Until 1989 the Pontifical Council was known as the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.

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  2. At its Eighth General Assembly in February, 1990, the Lutheran World Federation voted to change its constitution. It now describes itself as a "communion of churches."

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  3. Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946, 1957, 1971, 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.

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