PERSPECTIVES ON KOINONIA
from the Third Quinquennium of the Dialogue between the
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and
Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders
This is a report of conversations held on the international
level between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
and some classical Pentecostal churches and leaders. It contains
the results of the third phase of dialogue held 1985-1989.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
the Pontifical Council was known as the Secretariat for Promoting
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."
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.