by PAT LYTHE
The Methodist-Catholic dialogue continued in Auckland last month. Eight people from the
Catholic and Methodist Churches talked with a view to increasing Church unity.
The dialogue has grown out of the formation of the World Council of Churches in the early
part of the 20th century.
Following that, Protestant churches began to talk to one another to find out what they had in common.
After Vatican II, when the Catholic Church embraced ecumenism, the Church began dialogues
with other churches. They are called bilateral dialogues, as they are one to one, not one to all.
The purpose of the bilateral talks is to explore issues of faith and order, in order to understand one another’s beliefs and practices and to see how much in common we have. They are
largely theological discussions about faith, the sacraments, ministry and authority.
The ultimate purpose is, of course, church unity.
The dialogues are held at international and national level.
In Aotearoa-New Zealand, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference has three dialogues going — with the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians.
There are up to six people appointed from each denomination, so the (biblical) twelve meet twice a year over two days.
The Catholic Church has reached common agreement with most other Christian churches on Baptism, so we recognise other church’s baptisms, and in fact have a common Baptism certificate.
Our Methodist-Catholic dialogue last month was exploring the role of authority, as exercised
by the pope. It was Pope John Paul II who asked other churches to help him “remove the obstacles to the acceptance of the Petrine ministry”, asking whether it could be reshaped so that it might serve the unity of the Gospel more effectively.
Two of the Methodists gave thoughtful papers on their understanding of and reaction to Pope
John Paul II’s encyclical on church unity, and Fr Merv Duffy gave a paper on papal versus collegial authority. Very interesting and deep discussion flowed from those presentations.
Good relationships, too, are part of the ethos of a dialogue.