From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue prepares study aid

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 07 Oct 1998 13:39:21

Oct. 7 1998	Contact: Joretta Purdue*(202)546-8722*Washington

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - A resource for local discussions between United
Methodists and Roman Catholics is taking shape as a series of models for
group encounters at the congregational level.

Participants in the United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue worked
through several of the models for the first time at their seventh
meeting, Oct. 1-3. The 12-member team consists of six representatives
from each church. Pairs of participants from both churches had developed
the models since the group's Feb. 12-14 meeting.

By working individually and in pairs before the next meeting, Feb.
11-13, members of the United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue hope to
conclude all but the editing and production details on a resource that
could be used for discussions in U.S. communities where both churches
are present. A leader's guide is being planned as part of the resource.

During their most recent meeting, the team members decided that the
resource would provide for six sessions. However, people using the
resource could go on to further discussions and exploration after those
initial sessions.

The team is led by United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove,
ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops, and the Most Rev. William
S. Skylstad, bishop of Spokane, Wash. The group also includes
theologians, Christian educators, lay leaders, worship specialists,
ministers and priests. Several participants are lay people.

Members of the dialogue seemed surprised at times by the similarities
and divergences between the two churches. Often, the differences were a
matter of language, so the group is developing a brief glossary of
terms used in the models. For example, the word "liturgy" is used by
both churches but perceived differently.

Differences sometimes involved deeply held beliefs about matters such as
the factors that keep Protestants and Catholics from taking holy
communion together. But in all cases, the 12 participants are seeking
common ground, such as finding that the words of their communion rituals
are very similar despite centuries of separation.

Or, as one of the participants said, they want people in the churches to
grapple with their differences, some of which include ignorance of each
other and some of which arise from a lack of understanding.

The Rev. Deidra Kriewald, a professor of teaching and formation at
Wesley Seminary, observed that Protestants are finding things to hang on
to, such as gestures and rituals, while Catholics are moving away from
some of those types of practices. The Roman Catholics agreed.

This is the fifth round of dialogues and the most pastoral, whereas the
previous sessions were more technical, said Brother Jeffrey Gros, who
works with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and serves as
staff to the dialogue team. The United Methodist staff person to the
team is the Rev. Bruce Robbins, general secretary of  the denomination's
agency for Christian unity.

The team members see their final goal as being visible unity. That means
one church -- "but not necessarily one pension plan" or shared
structure, one member added.

The group uses the term "conversion" to describe a commitment to visible
unity. One member explained that the steps toward visible unity are 1)
openness and tolerance; 2) commitment to common witness; and 3) a
decision to have full communion. 

United Methodist News Service
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