EVANGELIZATION, PROSELYTISM AND COMMON WITNESS
Report from the Fourth Phase of the International Dialogue
between the Roman Catholic Church
and Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"
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.