Protestant Dialogues Begin New Rounds after Pandemic Restrictions
Subsequent to many of the challenges that have been posed by the pandemic, two of the ecumenical dialogues co-sponsored by the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs began new rounds of their ongoing theological exchanges. Both were very positive experiences during which the theologians, scholars and clergy were able to cultivate their relationships and consider the topics that will be developed in the hopes of eventually releasing texts about areas of bilateral theological and/or pastoral convergence and bringing our communities of faith closer together.
The dialogue with the United Methodist Church began its ninth round of sessions on May 24th to May 25th, 2022, at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. The dialogue is co-chaired by Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville and Bishop Kenneth Carter of the Southeastern Jurisdiction, Charlotte Episcopal Area and Florida Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. Bishop Monforton and Bishop Carter developed the topic “Human Migration and Baptismal Identity” for this round. They agreed to develop this topic in a three-step process: 1. Encounter 2. Diagnose 3. Sending Forth. Catholic participants include Dr. Kimberly Belcher of the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Edward Echeverria and Dr. Michael McCallion of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI; and Mr. Bill Canny of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The executive director of the secretariat, Father Walter Kedjierski, is currently staffing this dialogue on behalf of the bishops’ committee. The dialogue began its time together with informal prayer and a barbecue at Bishop Monforton’s residence. Participants came together the following day for prayer, the discussion of brief papers by Father Kedjierski and Dr. David Field (ecumenical staff from the United Methodist Church) on the theological traditions of the Catholic Church and United Methodist Church on Migration, and then all shared the resources together that they thought would be best to consult on the topic. All of the participants, staff members, and chairpersons were assigned papers to contribute for the next session which will be hosted by the United Methodists December 15-17 in Miami, Florida.
The dialogue with the Reformed Churches began its ninth round of sessions on June 5th to June 7th, 2022, at the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Chicago. The Catholic co-chair of this dialogue is Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. During the meeting the Reformed Christians, which includes representatives of the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Reformed Church in America, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, chose as the Reformed co-chair of the dialogue Dr. Moncia Schapp-Pierce (RCA). The dialogue began with the groups caucusing at an opening meal, then joining together for prayer and meeting together to develop more fully the plans for the week. Discussions were held on the previous documents of the dialogue and insights were offered by a number of the participants who had participated in previous rounds of this dialogue. The Catholic participants of the dialogue include Dr. Christian Washburn of St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Mn., Dr. Christopher Mooney of the Augustine Institute, Father Dennis Tamburello of Siena College, and Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman of Providence College. In light of the association of the World Communion of Reformed Churches with Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification in 2017 the dialogue has chosen to pursue the topic of “Justification and Justice.” It was decided that the next meeting of the dialogue will be in a virtual format in the fall and then return to the ELCA headquarters in Chicago in the Spring for its third meeting.
The dialogue with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is planning to begin its next round in December. Co-Chairs Bishop Denis Madden of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Bishop Patricia Lull of the Saint Paul Area Synod (Minnesota) have been meeting with the Rev. Dr. Carmelo Santos (ELCA Director for Theological Diversity and Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement) and Father Kedjierski to develop the dialogue theme. The topic to be considered will be the role of the Bishop in the life of the Church. The theologians selected for the dialogue are currently being invited to join. Due to unfortunate technical delays as a result of the pandemic the agreed statement from the last round, “Faithful Teaching,” has not yet been published, but progress is being made for its imminent release.