Between the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
and Some Classical Pentecostals
in the Holy Spirit
The series of talks described as the Roman Catholic/Pentecostal
dialogue had its beginning in the contacts made by individual
members of the Pentecostal Churches with the Vatican Secretariat
for Promoting Christian Unity in 1969 and 1970. With the assistance
of Rev. David du Plessis, an international Pentecostal leader,
noted figure among Pentecostals and a guest at the Second Vatican
Council, and Fr. Kilian McDonnell, osb, Director of the Institute
for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, USA, the
initial impulse was clarified and concrete proposals began to
1970 the first of two exploratory meetings was held to see if
a serious theological discussion between Roman Catholics and
Pentecostals on the international level would be possible. The
first gathering was largely an occasion for beginning to know
one another. At the second meeting in 1971 each side put "hard"
questions to the other, a more purposeful conversation resulted,
and it became clear that it would be possible to undertake discussions
of a more systematic kind.
later in 1971, a small steering committee with members from
both sides words out a program of topics which could be treated
at meetings over a five-year period.
The dialogue has a special character. The bilateral conversations
which the Roman Catholic Church undertakes with many world communions
(e.g. the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran World Federation
etc.) are prepared to consider problems concerning church structures
and ecclesiology and have organic unity as a goal or at least
envisage some kind of eventual structural unity. This dialogue
has not. Before it began it was made clear that its immediate
scope was not "to concern itself with the problems of imminent
structural union," although of course its object was Christians
coming closer together in prayer and common witness. Its purpose
has been that "prayer, spirituality and theological reflection
be a shared concern at the international level in the form of
a dialogue between the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
of the Roman Catholic Church and leaders of some Pentecostal
Churches and participants in the charismatic movements within
Protestant and Anglican Churches."
The dialogue has sought "to explore the life and spiritual
experience of Christians and the Churches," "to give
special attention to the meaning for the Church of fullness
of life in the Holy Spirit," attending to "both the
experiential and theological dimensions" of that life.
"Through such dialogue" those who participate "hope
to share in the reality of the mystery of Christ and the Church,
to build a united testimony, to indicate in what manner the
sharing of truth makes it possible ... to grow together."
Certain areas of doctrinal agreement have been looked at with
a view to eliminating mutual misunderstandings. At the same
time, there has been no attempt to minimize points of real divergence.
One of these, for example, is the importance given to faith
and to experience, and their relation in Christian life.
The dialogue has been between the Roman Catholic Church and
some Pentecostal Churches. Here, too, there have been special
features. On the Roman Catholic side, it has had the usual authorization
given by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to such
meetings on an international scale and the participants were
appointed officially by the Secretariat. The Pentecostal participants
were either appointed officially by their individual Churches
(and in several cases are leaders of these Churches), or else
came with some kind of approbation of their Churches. Therefore,
it has been a dialogue with some Pentecostal Churches and with
delegates of others. These are Churches which came into being
over the last fifty or sixty years when some Protestant churches
expelled those who made speaking in tongues and other charismatic
manifestations an integral part of their spirituality.
In addition, there were participants in the charismatic movement
who were invited by the Pentecostals. They belong to Anglican
or Protestant Churches which already have bilateral dialogues
in progress with the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, it is
as participants in the charismatic movement and not primarily
as members of their own Churches that they share in the dialogue.
It was also pointed out in the beginning that "this dialogue
is not directly concerned with the domestic pastoral question
of the relationship of the charismatic movement among Catholics
to the Catholic Church. The dialogue may help indirectly to
clarify this relationship but this is not the direct concern
of our deliberations1."
At the first meeting of the dialogue in Horgen, Switzerland,
June 1972, an exegetical approach was taken in order to study
"baptism in the Holy Spirit" in the New Testament,
its relation to repentance and the process of sanctification
and the relation of the charismata to it. At Rome in June, 1973
the second meeting was devoted to the historic background of
the Pentecostal movement, the relation of baptism in the Holy
Spirit to the rites of Christian initiation, and the role of
the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in the mystical
tradition. The third meeting, held at Schloss Craheim, West
Germany, June 1974, focused on the theology of Christian initiation,
the nature of sacramental activity, infant and adult baptism.
At the fourth meeting held in Venice, May 1975, the areas of
public worship (especially eucharistic celebration), the human
dimension in the exercise of the spiritual gifts, and discerning
of spirits were the main concern. In Rome, May 1976 the final
session was devoted to the topic of prayer and praise.
of the Spirit and Christian Initiation
In the New Testament the expression "to baptize in the
Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8) is used to express, in contrast
to the baptism of John (John 1:33) the baptism by Jesus who
gives the Spirit to the new eschatological people of God, the
Church (Acts 1:5). All men are called to enter into this community
through faith in Christ who makes them disciples through baptism
and sharers of his Spirit (Acts 2:38-39).
the Pentecostal movement "being baptized in the Spirit,"
"being filled with the Holy Spirit," and "receiving
the Holy Spirit" are understood as occurring in a decisive
experience distinct from conversion whereby the Holy Spirit
manifests himself, empowers and transforms one's life, and enlightens
one as to the whole reality of the Christian mystery (Acts 2:4;
8:17; 10:44; 19:6).
is the Spirit of Christ which makes a Christian (1 Cor 12:13)
and that life is "Christian" inasmuch as it is under
the Spirit and is characterized by openness to his transforming
power. The Spirit is sovereignly free, distributing his gifts
to whomsoever he wills, whenever and howsoever he wills (1 Cor
12:11; John 3:7-8). There is also the human responsibility to
seek after what God has promised (1 Cor 14:1). This full life
in the Spirit is growth in Christ (Eph 4:15-16) which must be
purified continually. On the other hand, due to one's unfaithfulness
to the promptings of the Spirit (Gal 6:7-9; 1 John 3:24) this
growth can be arrested. But also new ways open up and new crises
occur which could be milestones of progress in the Christian
life (2 Cor 3:17-18; 2 Cor 4:8-11).
participants are conscious that during the nineteen centuries
other terms have been used to express this experience called
"baptism in the Holy Spirit." It is one used today
by the Pentecostal movement. Other expressions are "being
filled with the Holy Spirit," "receiving the Holy
Spirit." These expressions should not be used to exclude
traditional understandings of the experience of and faith in
the reality of Christian initiation.
Holy Spirit gratuitously manifests himself in signs and charisms
for the common good (Mark 16:17-18), working in and through
but going beyond the believer's natural ability. There is a
great variety of ministries in which the Spirit manifests himself.
Without minimizing the importance of these experiences or denying
the fruitfulness of these gifts for the church, the participants
wished to lay stronger stress on faith, hope and charity as
sure guides in responding to God (1 Cor 13:1314:1; 1 Thess
1:3-5). Precisely out of respect for the Spirit and his gifts
it is necessary to discern between true gifts and their counterfeits
(1 Thess 5:22; 1 John 4:1-4). In this discernment process the
spiritual authority in the church has its own specific ministry
(1 John 4:6; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Cor 14:37-38) because it has special
concern for the common good, the unity of the church and her
mission in the world (Rom 15:17-19; Acts 1: 8).
of the Spirit and Christian Initiation
the earliest non-canonical texts of the Church there is witness
to the celebration of Christian initiation (baptism, laying
on of hands/chrismation, eucharist) as clearly expressing the
request for and the actual reception of the Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit dwells in all Christians (Rom 8:9), and not just
in those "baptized in the Holy Spirit." The difference
between a committed Christian without such a Pentecostal experience
and one with such an experience is generally not only a matter
of theological focus, but also that of expanded openness and
expectancy with regard to the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Because
the Holy Spirit apportions as he wills in freedom and sovereignty,
the religious experiences of persons can differ. He blows where
he wills (John 3:8). Though the Holy Spirit never ceased manifesting
himself throughout the entire history of the church, the manner
of the manifestations has differed according to the times and
cultures. However, in the Pentecostal movement, the manifestation
of tongues has had, and continues to have, particular importance.
times of spiritual renewal when charismatic elements are more
manifest, tensions can arise because of prejudice, lack of mutual
understanding and communication. Also, at such times as this
the discerning of spirits is more necessary than ever. This
necessity should not lead to discernment being misused so as
to exclude charismatic manifestations. The true exercise of
the charisms takes place in love and leads to a greater fidelity
to Christ and his church The presence of charismatic gifts is
not a sign of spiritual maturity and those who lack experience
of such gifts are not considered to be inferior Christians.
Love is the context in which all gifts are rightly exercised,
love being of a more definitive and primary order than the spiritual
gifts (1 Cor 13). In varying degrees all the charisms are ministries
directed to the building up of the community and witness in
mission. For this reason mystical experiences, which are more
generally directed toward personal communion with God, are distinguished
from charismatic experiences which, while including personal
communion with God, are directed more to ministerial service.
Holy Spirit, being the agent of regeneration, is given in Christian
initiation, not as a commodity but as he who unifies us with
Christ and the Father in a personal relationship. Being a Christian
includes the reception of grace through the Holy Spirit for
one's own sanctification as well as gifts to be ministered to
others. In some manner all ministry is a demonstration of the
power of the Spirit. It was not agreed whether there is a further
imparting of the Spirit with a view to charismatic ministry,
or whether baptism in the Holy Spirit is, rather, a kind of
release of a certain aspect of the Spirit already given. An
inconclusive discussion occurred on the question as to how many
impartings of the Spirit there were. Within classical Pentecostalism
some hold that through regeneration the Holy Spirit comes into
us, and that later in the baptism in the Spirit the Spirit comes
upon us and begins to flow from us. Finally, charisms are not
personal achievements but are sovereign manifestations of the
Tradition and Developments
involves a passing over from the kingdom of darkness to Christ's
kingdom of light, and always includes a communal dimension of
being baptized into the one Body of Christ. The implications
of this concord were not developed.
regard to baptism, the New Testament reflects the missionary
situation of the apostolic generation of the Church and does
not clearly indicate what may have happened in the second and
following generation of believers.
that missionary situation Christian initiation involved a constellation
normally including proclamation of the Gospel, faith repentance,
baptism in water, the receiving of the Spirit. There was disagreement
as to the relationship of these items, and the order in which
they may or should occur. In both the Pentecostal and Roman
Catholic tradition laying on of hands may be used to express
the giving of the Spirit. Immersion is the ideal form which
most aptly expresses the significance of baptism. Some, however,
regard immersion as essential, others do not.
discussing infant baptism, certain convergences were noted:
(a) Sacraments are in no sense magical and are effective only
in relationship to faith.
God's gift precedes and makes possible human receiving. Even
though there was disagreement on the application of this principle,
there was accord on the assertion that God's grace operates
in advance of our conscious awareness.
Where paedobaptism is not practiced and the children of believing
parents are presented and dedicated to God, the children are
thus brought into the care of the Christian community and enjoy
the special protection of the Lord.
Where paedobaptism is practiced it is fully meaningful only
in the context of the faith of the parents and the community.
The parents must undertake to nurture the child in the Christian
life, in the expectation that, when he or she grows up, the
child will personally live and affirm faith in Christ.
of the charismatic movement in the historic churches expressed
different views on baptism. Some agreed substantially with the
Roman Catholic, others with the classical Pentecostal view.
was drawn to the pastoral problem of persons baptised in infancy
seeking a new experience of baptism by immersion later in life.
It was stated that in a few traditions rites have been devised,
involving immersion in water in order to afford such an experience.
The Roman Catholics felt there were already sufficient opportunities
within the existing liturgy for reaffirming one's baptism. Rebaptism
in the strict sense of the word is unacceptable to all. Those
participants who reject paedobaptism, however, explained that
they do not consider as rebaptism the baptism of a believing
adult who has received infant baptism. This serious ecumenical
problem requires future study.
Renewal in the Historic Churches
church is always subject to sacred Scriptures. There was, however,
considerable disagreement as to the role of tradition in interpretation
The Pentecostal and charismatic movements have brought to the
understanding of Scripture a new relevance and freshness to
confirm the conviction that Scripture has a special message,
vital to each generation. Moreover, these movements challenge
the exegetes to take a new look at the Sacred Text in the light
of the new questions and expectations the movements bring to
was agreed that every church has history, and is inevitably
affected by its past. Some developments in that past are good,
some are questionable; some are enduring, some are only temporary.
A discernment must be made on these developments by the churches.
The dialogue considered that in the context of the charismatic
movement in the historic churches there was justification for
new groups and communities within the churches. Though such
movements have a legitimate prophetic character, their ultimate
purpose is to strengthen the church, and to participate fully
in her life. Therefore, the charismatic movement is not in competition
with the churches, nor is it separate from them. Further, it
should recognize the church authorities. In a word the charismatic
renewal is a renewal in the Body of Christ, the church, and
is therefore in and of the church.
Worship and the Gifts
worship should safeguard a whole composite of elements: spontaneity,
freedom, discipline, objectivity. On the Roman Catholic side,
it was noted that the new revised liturgy allows for more opportunities
for spontaneous prayer and singing at the Eucharist and in the
rites of penance. The Pentecostal tradition has come to accept
a measure of structure in worship and recognizes the development
in its own history toward some liturgy.
the Roman Catholic context the phrases ex opere operato was
discussed in relation to the celebration of the sacraments.
The disquiet of some participants was removed by the explanation
of the Roman Catholic doctrine of grace which stresses that
the living faith of the recipient of a sacrament is of fundamental
worship is a focal expression of the worshiper's daily life
as he or she speaks to God and to other members of the community
in songs of praise and words of thanksgiving (Eph 5:19-20; 1
Cor 14:26). Our Lord is present in the members of his body,
manifesting himself in worship by means of a variety of charismatic
expressions. He is also present by the power of his Spirit in
the Eucharist. The participants recognized that there was a
growing understanding of the unity which exists between the
formal structure of the eucharistic celebration and the spontaneity
of the charismatic gifts. This unity was exemplified by the
Pauline relationship between chapters eleven to fourteen of
exists both a divine and human aspect to all genuinely charismatic
phenomena. So far as concerns the human aspect, the phenomena
can rightly be subject to psychological, linguistic, sociological,
anthropological and other investigation which can provide some
understanding of the diverse manifestations of the Holy Spirit,
But the spiritual aspect of charismatic phenomena ultimately
escapes a purely scientific examination. While there is no essential
conflict between science and faith, nevertheless, science has
inherent limitations, particularly with regard to the dimensions
of faith and spiritual experience.
survey of the scientific literature on speaking in tongues was
presented. Another presentation outlined a Jungian psychological
evaluation of the phenomenology of the Holy Spirit. However
neither of these topics was developed adequately in discussion
and they await more extended consideration. This could be done
in the context of a future treatment of the place of speaking
in tongues as an essential factor in the Pentecostal experience.
relationship between science and the exercise of the spiritual
gifts, including that of healing, was discussed. Classical Pentecostals,
as well as other participants, believe that through the ministry
of divine healing can come restoration to sound health. Full
agreement was not reached in this matter in view of the importance
of the therapeutic disciplines and the participants recommended
further in-depth study.
New Testament witnesses to the charism of the discerning of
spirits (1 Cor 12:10), and also to a form of discernment through
the testing of the spirits (1 John 4:1), and the proving of
the will of God (Rom 12:2), each exercised in the power of the
Spirit. There are different aspects of discernment of spirits
which allow for human experience, wisdom and reason as a consequence
of growth in the Spirit, while other aspects imply an immediate
communication of the Spirit for discernment in a specific situation.
is essential to authentic ministry. The Pentecostal tradition
lays stress on the discerning of spirits in order to find "the
mind of the Spirit" for ministry and public worship. It
is also understood as a diagnostic gift which leads to the further
manifestation of other charismata for the edification of the
Body of Christ and the work of the Gospel. The operation of
this gift in dependence upon the Spirit develops both in the
believer and community a growth in a mature sensitivity to the
but not absolutely, expectancy is a requisite for the manifestations
of the Spirit through human acts on the part of the believer
and the community, that is, an openness which nevertheless respects
the sovereignty of the Spirit in the distribution of his gifts.
Because of human frailty, group pressure and other factors,
it is possible for the believer to be mistaken or misled in
his awareness of the Spirit's intention and influence in the
believer's acts. It is for this reason that criteria are essential
to confirm and authenticate the genuine operation of the Spirit
of truth (John 4:1-6). These criteria must be based upon the
scriptural foundation of the Incarnation, the Lordship of Christ
and the building up of his church. The important element of
community criteria involves the common wisdom of a group of
believers, walking and living in the Spirit, when, led by those
exercising the ministry of discernment, a mature discipline
results and the group is capable of discerning the mind of God.
Roman Catholic tradition understands such community discernment
to be exercised by the whole church of which her leaders receive
a special charism for this purpose. All traditions find a confirmatory
individual criterion in the extent to which the believer is
influenced in his daily life by the Spirit of Christ who produces
love, joy, peace: the plenitude of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal
for Further Discussion
relationship between the objective and the subjective aspect
of Christian life was raised. Prayer has two main forms; praise
and petition. Both have an objective and a subjective aspect.
In the prayer of praise the essential aspect is worship itself,
the adoration of the Father in the Spirit and in the truth of
Christ (cf. John 4:23-24). One of the expressions of this prayer
of praise is the gift of tongues, with joy, enthusiasm, etc.
In the prayer of petition, the believer has always to distinguish
between God the Giver, and the gift of God.
discussed was the relationship between the word of God and our
experience of the Spirit. The Bible must always be a control
and a guide in the Christian experience; but on the other hand,
the spiritual experience itself constantly invites us to read
the Bible spiritually, in order that it become living water
in our Christian life.
recognize multiple aspects of the total Christian experience
which embraces the presence of God (joy, enthusiasm, consolation,
etc.), and also the experience of our own sin and the experience
of the absence of God, with Christ dying on the Cross (Mark
15:34; Phil. 3:10); desolation, aridity and the acceptance of
our personal death in Christ as an integral part of the authentic
Christian life and also of the true praise of God.
of the Final Report
In the course of conversations a number of areas were touched
on which are recommended for further study. Among them were
a) Speaking in tongues as a characteristic aspect of the experience
in the Pentecostal movement.
b) The subjective dispositions relative to the baptism in the
c) The relationship between the faith of the individual and
the faith of the community in terms
d) The relationship between faith and experience.
e) The psychological dimension of charismatic experience.
f) An examination of the charismata of healing and the casting
out of demons.
g) The relationship between the sacraments and conscious personal
response of God.
h) The nature of the sacramental event and, in this context,
the nature of the church.
I) The problem of interpreting Scripture.
j) The ministries and the ministry gifts: their purpose and
k) The social implications of spiritual renewal.
character of the final report compiled by the Steering Committee
which has served the dialogue does not represent the official
position of the classical Pentecostal denominations, of the
charismatic movement in the historic Protestant churches, or
of the Roman Catholic Church. Rather it represents the content
of the discussions. Though the conclusions are the result of
serious study and dialogue by responsible persons, it does not
commit any of the churches or traditions to the theological
positions here expressed, but is submitted to them for suitable
use and reaction.
It has been the consensus of all participants that the dialogue
has been an occasion of mutual enrichment and understanding and
offers the promise of a continuing relationship.
Service 32 (1976/III) 32-37]
and all others used above are from the "Report of Steering
Committee Meeting, Rome, 25-26 October, 1971."