|Vatican stance 'nothing new,' say church leaders|
World Methodist Council leaders meet with Pope
Benedict at the Vatican in 2005. Responding to a recent papal document
on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, United Methodist leaders
say it does not change relations between the two Christian churches. A
UMNS file photo courtesy of the World Methodist Council.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
July 20, 2007
A recent Vatican statement should not significantly affect relations
between United Methodists and Roman Catholics, according to United
Noting that the two Christian churches have been in dialogue for more
than 40 years and "have reached clarity on several major theological
issues," the United Methodist Council of Bishops said it found "nothing
new or radically different" in the document and added that "all the
positives remain in our relationship."
The Vatican statement, titled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding
Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church," came from the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was ratified and
confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29 and released on July 10. It
reasserts the position that only Catholics constitute the true church,
while Protestants are merely "Christian communities" and not churches
"in the proper sense."
The Second Vatican Council, which occurred in the 1960s under Pope
John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, often is heralded as a turning point in
ecumenical relations for the Roman Catholic Church. That council did not
change Catholic doctrine on "the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic
Church," according to the new Vatican document, but more fully explained
'The fullness of the Church'
The United Methodist Council of Bishops, in a response released on
July 18, said United Methodists affirm "the one true Church, Apostolic
"We believe that apostolicity is based on the faithfulness of the
Church through the ages rather than on historical succession," the
The bishops acknowledged that the Vatican does not consider The
United Methodist Church to be a church "in the full sense, because we
lack from their viewpoint the mark of oneness and sacramental priesthood
and the fullness of the Eucharist. We understand ourselves, by God’s
grace, to share in the fullness of the Church through faithful ministry
and mission, and the Table of the Lord. That is a difference we can
continue to explore. Someday we pray that this difference will be
The council’s response was signed by Bishop Janice Huie, president;
Bishop William Oden, ecumenical officer; Bishop Ernest Lyght, secretary;
and Bishop Roy Sano, executive secretary.
"As United Methodists, we share in the pain of the brokenness of
Christ’s Body and prayerfully long for unity around the Table of the
Lord," the bishops concluded.
A statement from the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity
and Interreligious Concerns points out that the Vatican document "is
actually a restatement" of a 2000 declaration titled "Dominus Iesus." A
key component of that declaration was "the pronouncement of the primacy
of historical continuity and permanence, with the fullness of the Church
of Christ subsisting in the Catholic Church."
But the grace of salvation "is present and operative in the churches
and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic
Church," said the commission’s statement, signed by the Rev. Larry
Pickens, its chief executive.
"Within all of our churches are the elements of sanctification and
truth that represent the presence of the Holy Spirit and the reality of
For decades, United Methodists have engaged in dialogue with Catholic
colleagues through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while an
international dialogue has continued between the World Methodist Council
and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
"Our dialogues have taught United Methodists and Catholics to realize
that by baptism and faith in Christ, United Methodists enjoy a
communion, although imperfect, with the Catholic Church," the
commission’s statement declared.
"Our dialogues have also taught us that there is a positive
appreciation that is felt between our two communions and serves as a
foundation for addressing other church-dividing issues that face both of
Representatives of the Commission on Christian Unity visited the
Vatican and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in
April 2006. "During that time we shared our mutual concern that the
national and international dialogues involving the United Methodist
Church and the Catholic Church should continue," the statement said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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