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Methodists and Roman Catholics: Bilateral Dialogue in a Multilateral Context

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Written from the viewpoint of a long-time participant on the Methodist side, this article traces the course of the dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church since its inception in 1967. After the rather scattered process of the introductory and exploratory early rounds, a more cohesive approach began with the pneumatologically oriented Honolulu Report of 1981. The focus sharpened to ecclesiology with the task the Commission set itself in the Narobi Report of 1986, ‘Towards a Statement on the Church’. Consequently, the following three rounds were occupied at the level of fundamental theology with ‘revelation and faith’, ‘the apostolic tradition’ and ‘teaching authority’. On those bases, the Commission then returned to the questions of how (far) each partner might recognize ‘the Church’ in the other and, as will be seen in the forthcoming Seoul Report of 2006, what each might offer and receive in the ‘exchange of gifts’ that, according to Pope John Paul II's encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995), should mark ecumenical dialogue along with the ‘exchange of ideas’. The present article locates the dialogue between Methodists and Roman Catholics on the broader ecumenical scene and shows how some of the features of Methodist ecumenism are analogously pertinent also to Anglicans and to Lutherans in their respective self-understandings and in their relations with the Roman Catholic Church.


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