Catholics and Methodists Complete Latest Round of Dialogues

February 17, 1999 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (February 17, 1999) -- The fifth round of the United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue concluded five years of work at its eighth meeting, February 11-13, 1999, at St. Paul's College here. In addition to finalizing materials for a study guide, Yearning to Be One,the group also participated in worship, were hosted to a luncheon at Wesley Theological Seminary, and heard reports on plans for the next round of the Dialogue.

The Dialogue discussed a wide range of topics over the five years of twice-yearly meetings. Significant time was given to the exploration ofthe 1995 encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, the understanding of Mary in the two traditions, authority structures, including episcopacy, the connectional and hierarchial systems of the two churches, and the papacy.

The themes that were finally selected from among the many discussed include: 1) Discovering the need for each other; 2) Exploring the spirituality of dialogue; 3) Beginning our faith journey through baptism; 4) Worshiping on Sunday morning; 5) Living our faith; and 6) Becoming engaged in the mission of the Church.

Each session will provide the opportunity for common prayer, bible study, opportunities to get to know one another and each others' churches, and common bases for witness and action in the community. Theresource, Yearning to Be One, will be published in 2000 by the U.S.
Catholic Conference Office of Publishing and Promotion Services and the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship. The Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical Officers and the United Methodist Conference Ecumenical Commission chairs will assist congregations and parishes, schools and church groups in utilizing the dialogues in local communities across theUnited States.

The Dialogue has been chaired by Catholic Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane and United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove, retired bishop of Charleston, West Virginia. Each church provided a dialogue team of five in addition to the bishops and staff. Catholics in the dialogue were Msgr. John Strynkowski of Brooklyn, Sister Mary Aquin O'Neill, RSM,Mt. St. Agnes Theological Center for Women, Baltimore, Dr. Margaret Nutting Ralph, Diocese of Lexington, Sister Ellen Joyce, SC, College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ. Msgr. Olin Murdick, Diocese of Lansing, retired for reasons of health during the course of the dialogue.

On February 11, the dialogue participated in worship with faculty and students of Wesley Theological Seminary. Bishop Grove preached on the call to dialogue. Bishop Skylstad gave testimony to the importance of unity among the churches and shared some of his ecumenical experiences in Washington State. The shared worship took the form of what is calledthe Love Feast, a noneucharistic ritual meal devised by John Wesley so as not to distract the early Methodists from their Sunday parish Eucharist, but to provide an opportunity for warmth and fellowship. TheLove Feast is often used in ecumenical settings where the Eucharist is not possible. Dr. Diedra Kriewald presided.

The next round of the dialogue will begin in the fall of 2000 with the theme The Church in Each Place and in All Places.It will explore the common basis for the understanding of the Church by the United Methodist and Catholic churches. It will provide an opportunity for understanding Methodist connectionalism and Catholic hierarchial communion within the context of the theology of communion (koinonia).

The dialogues are carried out under the auspices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the General Commission on Christian Unity andInterreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church. It was also decided to copublish a summary of the six rounds of World Methodist Council-Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the five rounds of U.S. dialogues, Thirty Years of Mission and Witness.