Ecumenical Study for Parishes Studied by Methodist-Catholic Group

February 19, 1998 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (February 19, 1998) -- A congregational study to assist parishes and congregations in ecumenical efforts was the focus of a recent meeting here of the United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue.

The meeting took place at St. Paul's College, February 12-14.

Three model sessions of the dialogue were piloted with the group of twelve scholars and educators. They were exploring the spirituality of ecumenical dialogue and the means of nurturing the conversion necessary for an interest in the unity of these two churches to develop on the local level.

Among the topics to be explored in this parish-based conversation are the ground rules for dialogue, the scandal of Christian divisions and the traditions that Catholics and Methodists bring to the dialogue. Thedialogues are centered around Scripture and the experience of the participants.

The dialogue, under the leadership of Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane and Bishop William Boyd Grove, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, also took up the theme of Mary in the ecumenical dialogue. Dr. Bruce Robbins presented a United Methodist response to the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue Christ, the One Mediator, Mary and the Saints,Dr. Margaret Nutting Ralph presented a biblical overview of the development of the role of Mary in the New Testament writings, and Dr. Mary Aquin O'Neill, RSM, presented an analysis of the role of Mary in Catholic piety.

According to Dr. Robbins, while Methodists do not have a tradition of Marian devotion, their position is more open to some Catholic affirmations than other Protestant traditions. A careful exploration ofthe Immaculate Conception and the Assumption helped the participants understand more clearly the history and content of these Catholic teachings. There was a brief discussion of the three titles proposed bysome Catholics for dogmatic definition: advocate, mediatrix and coredemptrix. Different approaches to the Scripture, from Catholic and Protestant perspectives, helped illuminate why Mary played different roles in the traditions.

Dialogue participants also discussed developments in both churches and common concerns in the ecumenical movement.