May 5, 2005
By Jerry Filteau*
Bishop Walter Klaiber
(Catholic News Service) — Catholic and United Methodist scholars,
meeting in Washington April 29-May 1, called for greater sharing and
collaboration between their churches as they concluded a dialogue on the
church and church structures.
Their findings will be published in a joint study titled “Through Divine Love: The Church in Each Place and All Places.”
20,000-word document is expected to be made public before the end of
May. It explores similarities and differences in the structural ways
Catholics and United Methodists express and strengthen their communion
with one another and with God.
levels of conferences express the connectedness of United Methodists,
said that denomination’s co-chairman, recently retired Bishop Walter
Klaiber of Frankfurt, Germany, in an interview with Catholic News
said the conferences -- at the local, regional and general levels --
are not just a way of organizing and governing the church, but an
expression of being together in the church of Jesus Christ.
a German bishop as co-chairman of the dialogue is indicative of the
structure of the United Methodist Church, which has 50 episcopal areas
in the United States and 18 abroad. The dialogue sponsor on the Catholic
side is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Frederick F. Campbell of Columbus, Ohio, Catholic co-chairman, said the
Catholic Church "believes our hierarchical structure is constitutive of
the church," with the local church formed of the communion of Catholics
around their bishop and the universal church formed by the communion of
all the local churches with the church of Rome.
said the United Methodists also regard the episcopacy as constitutive of
their church and they cannot do away with it, “but the reason would be
different” than it is for Catholics. United Methodists simply regard
episcopacy as the best way in practice to govern church regions, not as
something required by divine mandate, he said.
concept of koinonia or “communio” -- the Greek and Latin terms
expressing the idea of the church as a communion or fellowship of
believers -- formed a framework for much of the dialogue's approach to
understanding similarities in the respective local, regional and global
structures of their churches.
all ecumenical dialogue we want to begin where there’s common ground,”
Campbell explained. He said the koinonia/communio approach derives
directly from the Christian understanding of the life of the Trinity, a
communion of three persons in the one God.
concept of koinonia/communio is especially helpful to bring together
the vertical dimension and the horizontal dimension of the church,
meaning we are in communion with the triune God and share in the life of
the Holy Spirit by sharing with one another,” Klaiber said.
“The koinonia concept best explains the connectedness of the local and global level in both of our churches,” he added.
Methodists differ from Catholics in their understanding of the
universal church, according to Klaiber. While Catholics identify their
church as the universal church and see other Christian churches or
ecclesial communities as living in imperfect communion with the Catholic
Church, “we wouldn’t identify the church universal with any level of
our church organization,” he said. “We believe that the church universal
is something which includes all communions of baptized Christians.”
of the aims of the dialogue, he said, is “to highlight the unity which
we already share. ... We share a lot of insights, a lot of common
practices. One of the aims is to ask theologians, pastors and bishops
really to look at what we already share with one another.”
second aim is that we ask both our traditions for renewal" by learning
from one another, he said. Another goal of the dialogue is a call to
their churches, in their common mission, to see how they can work
together and respond together “to the challenges all churches face at
three-day meeting at the Paulist College in Washington was the ninth
session of the sixth round of the U.S. Catholic-Methodist Dialogue,
which dates back to 1965. As part of the work of their final session,
the participants in the sixth round drew up recommendations to present
to their churches on possible topics for the next round of dialogue.
*Catholic News Service, copyright 2005, distributed this story. Reprinted with permission from Catholic News Service.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.