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An Ecclesiological Journey: The Way of the Methodist – Roman Catholic International Dialogue

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Ecclesiology eventually imposed itself as the main theme of the international Methodist / Catholic dialogue by virtue of what have been from the beginning the differences in the respective self-understanding and ecclesial claims of the partners. Confessing that no ecclesiology shaped in a time of division is likely to be entirely satisfactory, the Joint Commission in its Nairobi Report of 1986 ('Towards a Statement on the Church') began exploring 'ways of being one Church' that might obtain in the case of reunion, and the goal of the Methodist / Catholic dialogue was formulated as 'full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life'; and so it has remained, although 'governance' should probably be added as a fourth element in communion. By the time of the Seoul Report of 2006 ('The Grace Given You in Christ: Catholics and Methodists Reflect Further on the Church'), the Commission decided to face head-on the need for 'a mutual reassessment' in the 'new context' set by the ecumenical movement: each partner would look at the other with the eye of faith for what could be discerned there as 'truly of Christ and of the Gospel and thereby of the Church'. The way was thus opened for an 'exchange of gifts' on the road to 'full communion'. The dialogue continues to confront long-standing questions on what may be called 'the instrumentality of grace' as the Joint Commission prepares a Report for Durban 2011 on 'Encountering Christ the Saviour: Church and Sacraments'. The classic Faith and Order themes of baptism, eucharist and ministry remain in need of full settlement, and an ecumenical confession of 'the faith of the Church' would be welcome. Meanwhile, the Joint Commission has produced – under the title 'Together to Holiness'- a thematic synthesis of the first eight rounds of dialogue (1967-2006).


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