Keeping Company: Evangelicals and Catholics Walk and Talk Together

 — May 1, 19991 mai 1999

Catholics and evangelical Protestants are connecting despite doctrinal differences

Protestants and Catholics are working together more and more these days in Canada. Each believes it is the best expression of Christian faith, and each has often condemned the other’s teachings. Now some are trying to move beyond these criticisms and to forge limited new forms of cooperation, according to a series of articles in the May/June issue of Faith Today.

Gary Walsh, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), visited the offices of the Catholic Bishops in Ottawa and found himself “thanking the Lord for the things we share in common.” Despite doctrinal differences between the two organizations, EFC is having regular contact and working closely with Catholics on public policy issues such as abortion, family life and euthanasia, according to the lead article by Harold Jantz, a consultant and project manager of church-related projects in Winnipeg.

Sr. Donna Geernaert, who speaks for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in Ottawa, observes that not only have Catholics and the EFC joined with one another for presentations to government, they’ve also coordinated their efforts so they could prepare complementary briefs.

George Vandervelde of Toronto, convener of the World Evangelical Fellowship‘s task force on ecumenical issues, believes that dialogue between evangelicals and Catholics is important “simply to understand one another and clarify how we are different and how we are similar.” He says we shouldn’t be bearing false witness against each other. “If in evangelicalism we say this or that against Roman Catholicism, we should know that we are speaking truth, and you can find that out only by speaking to one another.”

Issues still remain. For example many evangelicals believe the Catholic exaltation of Mary as mediator or “Mother of God” suggests a diminution of Christ. And when it comes to salvation, many Catholics believe that there is no salvation outside their churches — and some Protestants believe the same for themselves.

The worldwide growth of evangelicalism has fueled some of the new cooperation. Between 1970 and the mid-90’s, charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity has grown in population around the world from 73 million to 480 million and at the same time Roman Catholics around the world went from under 700 million to one billion.

In Central and South America, much of the Protestant growth has come as a result of people leaving the Catholic church, which has created hostilities between Protestants and Catholics there. In one of the Faith Today articles, freelance writer Joe Couto examines how immigrant communities in Canada deal with these hard feelings inherited from their homelands. “The church has changed and we don’t have that fear of Pentecostals any more,” said Father Gelso Dadalt, who came to Canada from Brazil last year to serve Portuguese-speaking Catholics in Toronto. Jose Da Silva, pastor of the Portuguese-speaking congregation at Madison Baptist Church in Montreal said that he is open to working with Roman Catholics, but adding that he won’t undermine his beliefs to do it.

Over the years, Catholics and evangelicals have grown in relationship. There has been much transfer of charismatic belief and experience. Because of it many Catholics in a “prayer environment” feel quite comfortable in a Pentecostal gathering, says Fr. Damien MacPherson, spokesperson for interreligious affairs for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. What was “unthinkable” three decades ago, is now valued and seen as a “gift of the Spirit.”


Faith Today, is a national bi-monthly magazine that informs Canadian evangelicals on thoughts, trends, issues and events. It has been published since 1983 by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, an association of 31 church denominations and more than 100 Christian academic, evangelistic, political and social development organizations. An estimated 2.5 million Canadians are evangelical. (Visit the EFC’s website at

Posted: May 1, 1999 • Permanent link:
Categories: Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue, NewsIn this article: Catholic, Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelicals
Transmis : 1 mai 1999 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue, NewsDans cet article : Catholic, Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelicals

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