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The Report from the Fourth Phase of the International Dialogue
between the Roman Catholic Church
and Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders


  1. This is a report from the participants of the fourth phase of the international Dialogue (1990/1997) between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and some classical Pentecostal denominations and leaders. The Dialogue began in 1972. The co-chairpersons in the fourth phase were the Rev Kilian McDonnell, osb, of Collegeville, Minnesota, USA, and the Rev Justus du Plessis, of Faerie Glen, South Africa who was succeeded in 1992 by the Rev Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. of Pasadena, California, USA.1

  2. The unity of the Church is a concern for Pentecostals and Catholics alike. The particular purpose of these discussions is to develop a climate of mutual respect and understanding in matters of faith and practice, to find points of genuine agreement as well as indicate areas in which further dialogue is required.

    The goal is not structural unity, but rather the fostering of this respect and mutual understanding between the Catholic Church and classical Pentecostal groups.

  3. As we, the participants, have come to the task before us, we have done so as peers. Nevertheless, we have recognized that there is at least one important difference between the Catholic and the Pentecostal teams that bears mention. The Roman Catholic Church possesses that which may be described as official teaching on some of these topics, teaching that has been expressed in various authoritative texts such as the conciliar documents of Second Vatican Council and in papal encyclicals. The Pentecostals possess no comparable body of teaching which may serve as a resource for their position. The diversity of the Pentecostal Movement mitigates against a single position on certain topics. When the Pentecostal participants speak as a single voice throughout this document, then, they do so by gathering together what they believe to be the common consensus, held by the vast majority of Pentecostals worldwide.

  4. We, the participants, have sought to represent faithfully the positions held by our churches. However, we have made no decisions for the churches since we have no authority to make such decisions. The churches are free to accept or reject the report either in whole or in part. Yet as responsible persons, representing our traditions either officially or in some other way, we have come together over a period of years to study the issues of evangelization, proselytism, and common witness. In accordance with our understanding of the Gospel we are making proposals to our churches. We, the participants hereby submit our findings to our respective churches for review, evaluation, correction and reception.

  5. Since many Christians have seen the last decade of the second millennium as one in which to emphasize evangelization, and since significant tensions exist between Pentecostals and Catholics on this issue, it appeared appropriate to concentrate on this topic. The previous three phases focused on (1) the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christian Initiation, and the Charisms, Scripture and Tradition and the Human Person and the Gifts (1972-1976), (2) Faith and Religious Experience, Speaking in Tongues, and the Role of Mary (1977-1982), and (3) koinonia (Christian Communion and Fellowship) (1985-1989).

  6. Specific themes which helped us reach our conclusions in this phase of the Dialogue included: The Meaning of Mission and Evangelization (1990, Emmetten, Switzerland); The Biblical and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization (1991, Venice, Italy); Evangelization and Culture (1992, Rocca di Papa, Italy); Evangelization and Social Justice (1993, Paris, Frante); Evangelization / Evangelism, Common Witness, and Proselytism (1994, Kappel am Albis, Switzerland), and Common Witness (1995, Brixen/ Bressanone, Italy). The dialogue members convened once again in Brixen/Bressanone, Italy, in 1996 to examine a first draft of the Report of this Dialogue. They continued their drafting in Rome, Italy in June 1997. The Steering Committee was then authorized to make the final editorial decisions in keeping with the mind of the participants. This they did in Geneva, Switzerland in November, 1997.

  7. The procedure used throughout this phase included the discussion of papers presented by members of each side. Each team then asked the other to respond to a limited number of questions which arose from the discussions of the paper. These questions were designed to challenge participants to think creatively and substantively about the emerging issues. The substance of these discussions were recorded in most years in an "agreed account," which took note of areas of agreement or disagreement, areas of possible convergence, and, topics which might need further study. These materials, together with continuing conversations, provided the basis for the final report.

  8. Both Pentecostals and Catholics recognize as an essential part of the mission of the Church the call to evangelize. As the two teams explored the topic together, they were encouraged by new perspectives, and they gained clarity on problematic issues. They hope that their work together points toward possibilities of cooperation in mission for the sake of the Gospel.

  9. Both the Catholic and the Pentecostal participants of the Dialogue have become increasingly aware of the scandal of a divided witness. It is a scandal when unbelievers are more aware of those things which separate these churches than those things they hold in common. It is a scandal, too, when Catholics and Pentecostals demonstrate a lack of love or trust by speaking negatively about one another or acting in ways that antagonize or exclude one another. Because of their divisions, Catholics and Pentecostals are unable to participate together at the table of the Lord. Furthermore, they make evident their division insofar as they proclaim the Lord's death in isolation from one another.

  10. Touched by this divided witness, the participants of this Dialogue have experienced and expressed to one another their sorrow over this state of affairs. It is a sorrow which has, in part, moved them to search for ways in which these divisions might be resolved, following the Pauline exhortation to "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).


  1. The failing health of the Rev Justus du Plessis caused him to withdraw from active participation in the Dialogue in 1993. The Rev. Jerry Sandidge, who had served as co-secretary on the Pentecostal team, died in 1992 after a lengthy illness with which he had bravely struggled for years. The participants note with great appreciation their very significant work in promoting this Dialogue and other relationships between our communities. We also remember with great appreciation the work of Msgr. Heinz-Albert Raem who joined us in 1990 as co-secretary for the Catholic side. He applied his excellent organizational and theological skills in service to this fourth phase for seven years, but he never lived to see its completion because he died in March, 1997. Their absence was deeply felt by all members of the Dialogue, both Catholic and Pentecostal.

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