approve further ecumenical dialogue|
July 20, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Joan LaBarr
Geoffrey Wainwright (left) and Robert Gribben (right) listen to Father Donald Bolen address the World Methodist Council.
By Joan G. LaBarr*
SEOUL, South Korea (UMNS) — World Methodists have unanimously approved a
resolution authorizing further dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, with the
stated aim of “full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life.”
The resolution was adopted when the World Methodist Council’s 500-member
governing body met July 18-19 in historic Chung Dong First Methodist Church in
Seoul, the first Protestant church established on Korean soil.
Members also passed a resolution authorizing the association of the council and
its member churches with the agreement on the Doctrine of Justification approved
by the Lutheran World Foundation and the Catholic Church on October 31, 1999.
Continuing dialogue between the council and the Salvation Army, first initiated
in Brighton, England, in 2001, also was approved.
The Rev. Geoffrey Wainwright, the council’s coordinator of ecumenical dialogues,
introduced the proposal for authorization to continue conversations with the
Roman Catholics, noting it is the body’s longest-running dialogue, dating back
Commenting in an interview, United Methodist Bishop William B. Oden, ecumenical
officer for the denomination’s Council of Bishops, said there have been eight
prior rounds of talks, each of which probed more deeply into issues that divide
Catholics and Methodists.
Bishop William B. Oden
Characterizing the aims of the ecumenical conversations as “dialogues of truth”
and “dialogues of love,” Wainwright said these expressions were made by Pope
John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter, “Ut unum Sint” (“That They May be
One”). In the encyclical, Pope John Paul used the terms the “exchange of ideas”
and “the exchange of gifts,” terms reflected in the Seoul report titled, “The
Grace Given You in Christ.”
Wainwright indicated that the report pursues the exchange of ideas to lay a
solid foundation for an exchange of gifts.
“The report shows a ?very considerable’ or ?extensive’ agreement between the
partners on the doctrine of the Church; and then moves on to ?the concrete
reality of one another,’” he explained.
Quoting the report, Wainwright said, “It is time?to look one another in the eye,
and with love and esteem to acknowledge what we see to be truly of Christ and of
the Gospel, and thereby of the church, in one another.”
The report concludes with practical proposals that:
- Make more evident the shared belief between
Catholics and Methodists about the nature and mission of the church.
- Base these actions on what Catholics and
Methodists already recognize in one another as being truly of the church.
- Are “for the sake of the mutual exchange of
ecclesial gifts and endowments between Catholics and Methodists.”
Wainwright described the 2005 special audience that World Methodist Conference
leaders had with Pope Benedict, which included privileged places at the papal
Mass in St. Peter’s for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishop Walter Klaiber
The discussions led to informal ideas about the possibility of establishing a
“pastoral commission” to stimulate practical relations between Methodists and
Catholics in different parts of the world, according to Wainwright.
Oden expressed hope that the issues raised would be studied and debated at the
local church and annual conference levels, in order to get widespread reception.
“Dialogues will go no place if kept at leadership levels,” he said. He added
that the council’s actions could produce more local church conversations between
the two denominations.
The decision authorizing the World Methodist Council and member churches to sign
an official common affirmation of the Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the
Doctrine of Justification also generated widespread affirmation. Wainwright and
Klaiber drafted a Methodist statement, working in consultation with Lutheran and
Catholic groups and the council’s executive committee.
*LaBarr is manager of the World Methodist Conference newsroom in Seoul, South
Korea, and director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s North
Texas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
The Methodist delegation spent a week under the care of Cardinal Walter
Kasper and the Rev. Donald Bolen and their associates at the Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The group included Oden;
Wainwright; His Eminence Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, council chairman; the
Rev. George Freeman, the council’s chief executive; United Methodist
Bishop Walter Klaiber of Germany; and Gillian Kingston of Britain.
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