V. Koinonia and the Communion of the Saints
The Church as "Communio Sanctorum"
calls us into communion with Himself (communio with the
Holy One), into communion in the Body and Blood of Christ (communio
in sanctis), and into communion between Christians (fellowship
of the saints: communio sanctorum). In the Nicene Creed,
the phrase communio sanctorum has eschatological significance:
the saints on earth and those in heaven, marked by the same
Spirit, are a single Body.
In terms of the sharing in holy things (communio in sanctis),
for Roman Catholics participation in baptism, confirmation and
Eucharist is constitutive of the Church. For Pentecostals, the
central element of worship is the preaching of the Word. As
persons respond to the proclamation of the Word, the Spirit
gives them a new birth, which is a pre-sacramental experience,
thereby making them Christians and in this sense creating the
Church. Of secondary importance are participation in baptism
and the Lord's Supper, spontaneous exercise of the charismata
and the sharing of personal testimonies.
Pentecostals would like Catholics to share more among themselves
the private devotional reading of the Scriptures. Pentecostals
ask Roman Catholics whether they could not deepen the experiential
dimension of koinonia through spontaneous exercise of
the gifts and the sharing of personal testimonies. Convinced
that Word and Sacrament cannot be separated in worship, Catholics
ask Pentecostal to re-examine the dynamic relationship between
these two in the celebration of baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The relation between koinonia, sacraments and church
order (see above 81-89) explains why both the sharing in the
same eucharistic faith, and also in full communion are normal
prerequisites for receiving the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic
Church. Since for Catholics the Eucharist is essential and central
in the life of the Church, participation in the eucharist means
and requires unity of faith. Catholics would like to see Pentecostals
express clearly what is required for full communion in their
According to the Roman Catholic view, the communio sanctorum
includes a relationship to all the holy ones of God, the
saints on earth and also the saints in heaven. Members of the
Church are given koinonia in the very holiness of God.
As a result, they form "a great cloud of witnesses"
(Heb 12:1) a "great multitude which no man could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues"
In Roman Catholic faith and practice, God alone is the object
of worship (latria). However, veneration (doulia)
is given to saints who have "run the race" "finished
the course" and have received "a crown of life."
It is also important to realize that no Catholic has an obligation
jure divino of venerating either relics, icons, or saints.
While this kind of devotion is not necessary for salvation,
the Church recognizes the usefulness of such forms of devotion,
recommends them to its members, and resists any condemnation
or contempt of such practices (cf. Council of Trent,
Pentecostals find reassuring the stress in Roman Catholic theology
that worship belongs only to God. It is, however, the Pentecostal
teaching that the unique mediatorial role of Christ positively
excludes veneration of relics, icons, and saints. Pentecostals
do, however, affirm that in their worship the earthly saints
join in worship with saints in heaven and with them comprise
the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. As the Scripture
says: "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,"
(Heb 12:1) who have lived in history from the beginning of God's
dealing with the human race.
Holiness, Repentance and Ministry in History
All the baptised are called to be "saints," and indeed,
according to Scripture, they called themselves such in the early
church (e.g., Acts 9:13; 26:10; Rom 15:25-26; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:1.
agree that because of sin, the Church is always in need of repentance.
It is at once holy and in need of purification. The Church is
a "holy penitent," and is ever in need of renewal
both in its persons and in its structures. Both Catholics and
Pentecostals recognize the fact that their respective theologies
of koinonia are all too seldom reflected in the empirical
reality of the life in their respective communities.
sides of this dialogue agree on the fundamental demands for
holiness in the minister and agree that the unworthiness of
a minister does not invalidate the work of the Holy Spirit.
For Roman Catholics, God's acts in the sacraments are effective
because they are based on God's faithfulness. They believe that
the Holy Spirit works with consistency in ministering to those
who come in faith. The Church gives serious attention to Church
discipline because human weakness and sin can become obstacles
to the effectiveness of ministry. Pentecostals, too, believe
that God can work through the ministers of the Word of God in
spite of their grave failures and sin in their lives. "Some
indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from
good will... What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense
or in truth, Christ is proclaimed: in that I rejoice" (Phil
1:15,18). Pentecostals also believe that the ordinances administered
by an unworthy minister are valid (in the sense that, for instance,
baptism need not be repeated). Together we believe, however,
that the unworthiness of ministers is often a stumbling block
which prevents non-believers from coming to faith in a true
and living God, and it frequently hinders the work of the Spirit
in the believing community.
Pentecostals stress the freedom of the Spirit to act in the
community and emphasize the need for active participation of
all members of the Church, they do acknowledge the necessity
of church order. They affirm church order (which can legitimately
take different forms) as the will of the Lord for his Church,
since they observe from the New Testament that the earliest
Church has not "been without persons holding specific authority
and responsibility" (BEM, Ministry, 9) (cf. Acts
14:23; 20:17; Phil 1:1). Since Pentecostals do not reject ecclesial
institutions, they recognize that the Spirit operates not only
through charismatic individuals, but also through the permanent
ministries of the Church.
is agreement that the offices and structures of the Church,
as indeed every aspect of the Church, are in a continual need
of renewal insofar as they are institutions of men and women
here on earth. This presumes that the Spirit can breathe new
life into the Church's offices and structures when these become
"dry bones" (Ez 37). This on-going effort at renewal
has important ecumenical implications. This is an essential
dynamism of "the movement toward unity" of the People
of God (Unitatis redintegratio, §6).
and Roman Catholics appear to view the history of the Church
quite differently. The members of this dialogue believe that
the differences in these perspectives deserve further mutual
exploration. Both Pentecostals and Roman Catholics recognize
that continuity in history by itself is no guarantee of spiritual
maturity or of doctrinal soundness. Increasingly both traditions
are coming to share a genuine appreciation for the value which
church history reveals to them today.
Catholics believe that the contemporary Church is in continuity
with the Church in the New Testament. Pentecostals, influenced
by restorationist perspectives, have claimed continuity with
the Church in the New Testament by arguing for discontinuity
with much of the historical Church. By adopting these two positions,
one of continuity, the other of discontinuity, each tradition
has attempted to demonstrate its faithfulness to the apostolic
faith "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude
3). The significance of this for the welfare of the whole Church
urges upon us the need of further common theological reflection
on the history of the Church.