Evangelical, Catholic group working on common statement of faith

 — Oct. 30, 201330 oct. 2013

For more than two years, a group of Evangelical and Catholic Christians in Saskatoon have been meeting to talk about their common faith in Jesus Christ, discussing what is shared, as well as examining where their understandings and convictions differ.

Formally appointed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers Fellowship, the local dialogue group is now in the process of writing a joint statement, just as a second Catholic-Evangelical worship service is being planned for Saskatoon Nov. 14.

It was after the first shared worship service in March 2011 at St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral that a small group of church and ecumenical leaders met to try and find ways for the two traditions to further engage in common prayer, common witness, common mission and common study. A dialogue group was subsequently launched, with the first meeting held in December 2011.

Rev. Harry Strauss, associate pastor at Forest Grove Community Church (left) and a member of the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers Fellowship, and Nicholas Jesson, ecumenical officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, are part of the 20-member dialogue group, which includes 10 representatives from each tradition.

Both Strauss and Jesson are also serving on a four-member committee that is now drafting a joint statement emerging from two years of conversation, study and relationship building.

Strauss describes the joint statement: “We confess our common faith, we acknowledge our differences and we affirm our common mission.”

Although the joint statement is not finished, there are plans to introduce portions at the 7 p.m. Nov. 14 Evangelical-Catholic worship service being hosted by Circle Drive Alliance Church, led by Pastor Eldon Bolt.

“Part of it is education, just making people aware; part of it is inviting people to pray for this effort; and also to anticipate that a statement will eventually come out,” says Strauss.

Other local dialogues among Christians in Saskatoon have usually revolved around studying a particular document or a specific concern. For instance, Restorative Justice was the theme of a local dialogue between Catholics and Mennonites a few years ago, describes Jesson.

“But the Evangelical-Catholic dialogue is much more general. We are exploring areas of historic difference, of disagreement — or at least the perceived disagreement — and sometimes we are just teaching each other our language.”

The diversity of the dialogue group has brought different perspectives to the discussion, with the Evangelical representatives including a number of pastors and members of Pentecostal, Mennonite, Alliance, Baptist and other evangelical traditions. The Catholic participants include members of clergy (Bishop Donald Bolen, Rev. Bernard de Margerie and Rev. Geoffrey Young) as well as laypersons. The Catholic group also includes a representative from the Ukrainian Catholic tradition. Some members of the dialogue group have had extensive ecumenical experiences; others are new to the path of Christian unity.

“I find this whole experience invigorating,” says Jesson. “It is affirming the unity that we share as Christians. We are able to come together and it’s not just that we like each other — which we do — but we have been talking about issues, some hard issues over these years, in areas where we would not expect to have great levels of agreement: discussions about Mary, the eucharist, or the church.”

Catholic members of the dialogue have also asked tough questions of Evangelicals about their beliefs, Jesson adds.

“We have talked about our differences, acknowledged those differences, recognized them,” agrees Strauss. He also admits that there may be voices of opposition or some who might challenge the idea of a dialogue or common witness between Catholics and Evangelicals.

“However, when I talk to people on the Evangelical side, I say, yes, there are grey areas, in terms of just having different perspectives and different points of conviction about how we understand things, but when we come to the centre, I look at the motto of the diocese: ‘Rooted in Christ.’ Well, we can embrace that. We do embrace that,” Strauss says.

“There is an honesty about how we approach it,” Jesson says of the two-plus years of dialogue. “There is a certain integrity about wanting to make sure that we reflect what our whole tradition holds, even if it’s something that we do not particularly feel comfortable with, or which is not part of our particular piety. We see the need to get the diversity of our respective communities reflected here.”

Bolen says the local dialogue has its roots in years of relationship-building, led by leaders such as Rev. de Margerie (a Catholic priest who has for years been involved in working toward Christian unity), and the late Rev. Ken Rutherford, an Alliance Church pastor with a heart for getting to know mutual friends of Jesus Christ.

Bolen describes the warm welcome he received from the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers Fellowship shortly after his appointment as Roman Catholic bishop of Saskatoon. The meeting included sharing a profound love for God’s Word.

Posted: Oct. 30, 2013 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6911
Categories: Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue, NewsIn this article: Catholic, dialogue, ecumenism, Evangelicals, Saskatoon, witness
Transmis : 30 oct. 2013 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6911
Catégorie : Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue, NewsDans cet article : Catholic, dialogue, ecumenism, Evangelicals, Saskatoon, witness

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