VI. Common Witness14
Christ is the unique witness to the Father, and the Spirit comes
from the Father to witness to Jesus Christ. Therefore, witness
which belongs to the nature of the Christian life is an imperative
of the Great Commission and is an ideal for which we strive.
In different ways, both Pentecostals and Catholics base their
witness on Matthew 28. Both consider the Pentecost event as
central to their Christian faith. In the biblical sense witness
is the unique testimony of the apostles and disciples to what
they have seen and heard (1 John 1:1-4). Witness is rooted in
the apostles' experience of Jesus who is the image of the Father
sent in the power of the Spirit to return all to the source,
the Father. Disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim
the Gospel (Acts 1:8; 4:20).
witness means standing together and sharing together in witness
to our common faith. Common witness can be experienced through
joint participation in worship, in prayer, in the performance
of good works in Jesus' name and especially in evangelization.
True common witness is not engaged in for any narrow, strategic
denominational benefit of a particular community. Rather, it
is concerned solely for the glory of God, for the good of the
whole church and the good of humankind.
Common witness requires personal inward conversion, a renewal
of heart and mind. This enables all to hear the Word of God
anew and to listen again to what the Spirit is saying to the
churches. Purification of our own hearts and minds and the renewal
of our respective communities help make common witness a possibility.
One sign that this purification has taken place is that in the
process of growing mutual understanding and trust, our stereotypes
of one another diminish. In other words, we change, but the
change is not compromise.
Once mutual trust as persons and reciprocal respect for each
others' traditions has been established, then some limited measure
of common witness is possible. Are there any precedents? There
are innumerable precedents from all over the world. For example
when a Pentecostal leader was murdered in Iran in 1995 the eulogy
was preached by a Catholic priest. In Berlin the Classical Pentecostals
are members of the association of churches and cooperate in
its activities. In Munich a Benedictine monastery provided a
Pentecostal pastor just starting his ecumenical ministry with
meeting rooms in the center of the city In the United States
a Pentecostal invited a Catholic priest to give a retreat for
ministers. A Pentecostal leader was invited to preach in the
Catholic Cathedral in Los Angeles. The revivals of Billy Graham
have long enjoyed both Pentecostal and Catholic participation.
In Chile, some Pentecostal leaders participate together with
Catholics, Orthodox and other Protestants in the Fraternidad
Ecumenica. Pentecostals and Catholics charismatics have
for some time now participated together in many ways, including
planning such significant international conferences as those
held in Jerusalem, Singapore, Bern, Brighton, Port Dickson (Malaysia),
Kansas City, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Orlando.
Pentecostals and Catholics are still at the beginnings of their
relationship and their search for mutual understanding. Some
are only now exploring ways of giving common witness. Others
do not want to give common witness. As members of the Dialogue
we believe that a limited common witness is already possible
because in many ways a vital spiritual unity exists between
us, a real though imperfect communion (Perspectives on koinonia,
54-55). We already have communion in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We both believe in the centrality of Scripture. We proclaim
together that there is no evangelization unless the name, teaching
and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is proclaimed (cf.
Evangelization in the Modern World). We share a common
belief in the Fatherhood of God; the Lordship of Jesus Christ,
Messiah, Savior, and Coming Lord; the power of the Spirit for
witness; the enduring nature of Pentecost; the love of God poured
out through the Spirit. We both acknowledge the unique character
of salvation, the belief that anyone without exception who is
saved attains salvation through Jesus Christ; the forgiveness
of sins, the promise of eternal life, the significant role of
the charisms, the ten commandments and the beatitudes. Common
witness shows the bonds of communion (koinonia) between
one is called to compromise. Common witness is not a call to
indifference or to uniformity In fact though division and separation
are contrary to the will of God, the diversity within the unity
of the one Body of Christ is a precious and indispensable gift
which is to be recognized, valued and embraced. Common witness
prevents neither individuals nor communities from witnessing
to their heritage. This can even include our witnessing separately
on things over which we seriously disagree. However, this can
be done without being contentious, with mutual love and respect.
a deeper level, common witness and forgiveness are intrinsically
related to one another. Forgiveness also leads to a more credible
common witness. Praying together is a case in point. In fact,
mutual forgiveness is itself an act of common witness. Here
equity in the recognition of guilt is not the goal. One side
may have offended more than the other. That determination is
left to God. Rather, as Jesus himself has given us an example,
each side takes on the sins of the other. In Christian forgiveness
it is not a question of who threw the first stone (John 8:7),
of who did what to whom first; rather it is the willingness
to make the first step. Both sides should take the initiative
according to Gospel norms: Pentecostals should take the initiative
for reconciliation because they feel themselves the most aggrieved;
Catholics should take the initiative because they are the elder
in inter-Church relations. In both cases, if asked for our coat,
we give also our cloak; if asked to go one mile, we go two (Mt
need to be aware of the dark side of our histories, with full
recognition of all the circumstances which gave rise to the
distrust. Forgiveness is based on the truth established by both
sides. The truth shared by the followers of Christ is not established
by judicial procedure (cf. 1 Cor 6:4-7). There is another
way of resolving difficulties, more appropriate for those who
are profoundly related to one another in the unity of the Spirit.
The offended should not have to prove their position to the
last detail. The model here is a more relational one. Once mutual
forgiveness has been expressed reconciliation should be effected.
In our cases this reconciliation should be expressed publicly
in a form acceptable to both groups.
should have acquaintance with the other's history, and theological
positions. Otherwise we will not escape our histories of mutual
distrust. Common witness gives Pentecostals and Catholics the
opportunity to work together in the writing of our common and
separate histories, without excluding different interpretations
of the facts. Once Pentecostal and Catholic students have a
firm grounding in their own tradition sharing in institutes
of higher learning is possible, especially in disciplines such
as intellectual history, philosophy, government, law, sociology,
and medicine. This activity could include not only students
but mature scholars. We already share in scholarly biblical
research and we participate together in learned societies such
as the Society of Pentecostal Studies.
often underestimate the degree of common witness which already
exists among Pentecostal and Catholic relatives and neighbors
who pray together and cooperate in many ways, including visiting
the sick and caring for others. Is it possible that the people
in our local congregations and parishes are perhaps more involved
in common witness than their pastors and church leaders realize?
our Pentecostal-Catholic Dialogue, we have discovered two useful
we cannot do what conscience forbids;
we can do together what conscience permits in the area of
The first principle, "we cannot do what conscience forbids,"
emphasizes that our witness must be prudent, honest and humble.
We recognize today that there are limits as to what we can
do together. Both Pentecostals and Catholics have diverse
pastoral and worship understandings, as well as doctrinal
points which they do not fully share with one another. While
we build on those things that unite us, our common witness
should also acknowledge our divergences. The present inability
of Catholics and Pentecostals to share together at the table
of the Lord is a striking example of our divisions and the
lack of common witness in this respect (cf. 1 Cor 11:26).
All of us experience this as deeply troubling.
The second principle raises the provocative question: Why
do we not do together what we can do together? While recognizing
that relations between Pentecostals and Catholics are a matter
of a growth progress, what is possible at a later stage of
growth may not be possible at an earlier stage. Many Pentecostals
and Catholics may not see some of our suggestions as options
for today. But both need to know what doors can be opened,
if not today, perhaps in the future. Above all, no one wants
to close off either the present or future inspiration of the
measure of common prayer seems indispensable for common witness.
How can we witness together, if we have not prayed together?
To pray together is already common witness. The Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity, which is generally celebrated in January
or before Pentecost, is a possibility Pentecostals and Catholic
charismatics already share profound experiences in prayer together.
There could be exchange of pulpits related to non-eucharistic
worship services. We can exchange films, videos and printed
materials which explain the faith but betray no denominational
believe that Pentecostals and Catholics can together be proactive
in promoting values and positive actions in human society In
the spirit of Mt 25:31-46, we can stand together against sin
in promoting human dignity and social justice. Though with changing
times other issues will present themselves, currently there
are many examples of the kinds of issues on which we can work
together. We can cooperate in such works as the quest for disarmament
and peace, providing emergency relief for refugees, for victims
of natural disasters, feeding the hungry, setting up educational
opportunities for the illiterate, establishing drug rehabilitation
programs and rescuing young women and men from prostitution.
We can work together to eliminate racial and gender discrimination,
working for the rights and dignity of women, opposing offensively
permissive legislation (such as abortion and euthanasia), promoting
urban and rural development and housing for the poor, denouncing
violations of the environment and the irresponsible use of both
renewable and unrenewable natural resources. In some parts of
the world, Pentecostals already collaborate with Catholics on
many of these issues and others, yet there are still many more
opportunities for cooperation, especially in North America.
Why do we do apart what we can do together?
document comes out of our experience of Dialogue with one another
over twenty-five years on a variety of topics, with years of
focused discussions on Evangelization, Proselytism and Common
Witness. Strong bonds of affection and trust between Pentecostals
and Catholics in the dialogue have created an atmosphere in
which differences have been faced with candor, even when those
differences seem to be irreconcilable. We hope that the text
conveys something of the frustrating and rewarding moments that
have been part of our experience over the years. We also hope
that the text will help readers to re-experience what we ourselves
experienced, namely, the joy of discovering together astonishing
areas of agreement. But the text would lack integrity if it
did not also offer to the reader the opportunity to re-experience
with us the shocks of the gaps between our positions. Still
we hold dear the unity in diversity which exists among us and
look forward to the day when we may work more closely together
despite our differences. In reality, what unites us is far greater
than what divides us. Though the road to that future is not
entirely clear to us we are firm in our conviction that the
Spirit is calling us to move beyond our present divisions. We
invite our readers to travel this road with us.
delivered on this topic by Kilian McDonnell, osb of Collegeville,
Minnesota, USA (Can Classical Pentecostals and Roman Catholics
Engage in Common Witness?) and by Prof. Walter J. Hollenweger
(Swiss Reformed), Krattigen, Switzerland (Common Witness).
The Pentecostal team invited participation from Prof. Hollenweger
for three reasons. He was formerly a Pentecostal pastor. He
was formerly on staff of the Office of Mission and Evangelism
of the World Council of Churches. He was formerly a Professor
in the field of Mission and Evangelism at the University of
Birmingham, England for many years, where his study of global
Pentecostalism was a life long passion. Other dialogue documents
which have dealt with Common witness are: "The Challenge
of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness: A Study
Document of the Joint Working Group", The Ecumenical
Review 48, 2 (1996) 212-221; the ERCDOM report The
Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission, 1977-1984
(Grand Rapids/Exeter: Eerdmans/Paternoster, 1986 and IS
60 (1986/I-II) 71-97) and Summons to Witness to Christ
in Today's World: A Report of the Baptist-Roman Catholic International
Conversations, 1984-1988 (see footnote 10 above).
(footnote 10: On the Catholic side, the theme has been
addressed in several international bilateral dialogues in
which the Roman Catholic Church has been involved, namely
with Evangelicals (The Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue
on Mission, 1977-1984: A Report, Information Service [IS]
60 (1986/I-II) 71-97; with Baptists (Summons To Witness
to Christ in Today's World: A Report of the Baptist-Roman
Catholic International Conversations, 1984-1988, IS 72
(1990/I) 5-14); with the Orthodox (Uniatism: Method of
Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion,
1993, IS 83 (1993/II) 96-99). On the multilateral level,
the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church
and the World Council of Churches has recently published a
study document entitled The Challenge of Proselytism and
the Calling to Common Witness, 1996, IS 91 (1996/I-II)
77-83. In so doing, Catholics, like many Protestant and Orthodox
groups, have expressed the desire to condemn all proselytism.)