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WASHINGTON—Both Methodists and Catholics believe their celebration of the Eucharist helps them to see God’s glory in all of creation and therefore leads to greater care for the environment, according to a new joint statement produced by the United States dialogue between the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Catholic Church. The statement, “Heaven and Earth are Full of Your Glory,” was issued April 20, ahead of the traditional observance of Earth Day.
Bishop William Skylstad, retired bishop of Spokane, Washington, and Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the UMC Florida Conference co-chaired the dialogue.
Gathering semiannually between the fall of 2008 and summer 2011, the seventh round of the Methodist-Catholic dialogue sought to build on the newfound unity between the UMC and the Catholic Church when the Methodists signed onto the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification—an agreement dispelling the centuries-old disagreement on how people are made just before God—in 2006. The dialogue partners agreed to explore a major issue affecting the common good and chose environmental stewardship.
“We call both Methodists and Catholics to participate more deeply in the Eucharist by recognizing its intrinsic connection with the renewal of creation,” the statement said. “The Eucharist is regarded as the central form of Christian worship because it orchestrates all that humans are and can be on this earth—our senses, abilities, talents, gifts, and intelligence—and offers them back to God the Father in thanksgiving for the Paschal victory of his Son.”
The statement notes that elements of nature—grain for bread and grapes for wine—become part of salvation through the Eucharist and that salvation itself is an act of God at work in all of creation and all creation encountering God. This has implications for believers in their relationship with God’s creation in the environment.
Catholic participants in the dialogue included Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor of America Magazine; Msgr. Kevin Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington; Connie Lasher, Ph.D., Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California; and Angela Russell Christman, Ph.D., of Loyola College in Baltimore. Methodist participants included Sondra Wheeler of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington; Karen Westerfield Tucker of Boston University School of Theology; Kendall Soulen of Wesley Theological Seminary; Edgardo Colon-Emeric of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina; L. Edward Phillips of Emery University in Atlanta; and Glen Alton Messer II, Ph.D., the assistant general secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the UMC.
The full document is available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/dialogue-with-others/ecumenical/methodist/
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