Saskatoon’s Bolen makes history preaching to Evangelicals

 — Jan. 24, 201424 janv. 2014

Preaching to Evangelicals at the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity didn’t phase Saskatoon Bishop Don Bolen — much.

“I’m always a bit nervous. I’m very mindful of my own shortcomings and inadequacies whenever I preach anywhere,” Bolen told The Catholic Register a few days after his Jan. 19 appearance at Saskatoon’s Circle Drive Alliance Church. “I did prepare more because they told me I had 30 minutes. Sweet, but it did require more preparation.”

Bolen preached on the story of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ ruling under the law that the one who has no sin should cast the first stone.

“He chose a beautiful text,” said Circle Drive Pastor Eldon Boldt. “Jesus showed grace and it was mercy upon mercy upon mercy. One girl wrote me (after the service) and said, ‘I don’t know why, but I found myself choking back tears as the bishop spoke.’ Well, that’s just the Holy Spirit.”

A Catholic bishop preaching in an Evangelical church is a rarity. As a member of the Evangelical-Roman Catholic International Consultation, Bolen hasn’t heard of other bishops preaching to Evangelicals. He plans to bring it up when the official international dialogue meets in March.

Boldt, who extended the invitation to Bolen, thinks of the occasion as historic.

“I think there were some angels rejoicing that we could come together on what we agree, which is the main point — Jesus Christ,” Boldt said.

However historic it may be, Bolen’s homily at one of Saskatoon’s leading Evangelical churches has a history behind it.

In 2010, not long after Bolen became bishop, an Evangelical pastor in the city was diagnosed with cancer. Ken Rutherford wrote to his congregation to inform them of his diagnosis, saying that though he appeared healthy on the outside something on the inside was killing him. The pastor pointed out the parallel between his cancer and a divided body of Christ.

“We (the Church) look healthy and strong on the outside, but we’re dying because we’re not unified,” is how Boldt summarized Rutherford’s message. “So he held prayer meetings not for his healing but for the healing of the Church.”

Bolen attended Rutherford’s funeral in September 2010. Not long afterwards was Saskatoon’s first joint prayer service for Evangelicals and Catholics. The two communities struck a study group of 10 Catholics and 10 Evangelicals to examine differences and similarities in their faith.

While Rutherford’s dying wish for unity has carried Saskatoon’s Evangelical-Catholic relations the last couple of years, there is a long history that precedes the most recent efforts.

In the 1980s Fr. Bernard de Margerie founded the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism then proceeded to invite himself to the Evangelical pastors’ fellowship and prayer meetings.

“They didn’t know what to do with him, but gradually he built relations,” said Bolen. “He did extraordinary pioneering work.”

That history of slowly building friendships and understanding is bearing fruit these days in Catholic-Evangelical co-operation in sponsoring refugees. The Catholic and Evangelical communities are also working together to bring a grocery store to a poor, underserved Saskatoon neighbourhood that has no large grocery store.

“Like other Catholics, I am grateful that on a number of moral issues we stand alongside Evengelicals, particularly supporting human life,” said Bolen.

But ecumenism isn’t about political allegiances on those serious issues, he said.

“Through encounter with each other we have come to realize we hold a common trinitarian faith,” said Bolen. “We believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge each others’ baptisms, which is a baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We jointly proclaim Jesus as our Saviour. We turn to the same Scriptures for wisdom and foundation to live our lives as communities and as individuals.”

Boldt acknowledges that many Evangelicals stand four-square against ecumenism and are deeply suspicious of the Catholic Church. It’s not an issue among his congregants and he never worried about the invitation to Bolen generating backlash, he said.

“You don’t have to go far to find people who are down on it (ecumenism),” Boldt said. “I’ve always believed we’re down on what we’re not up on.”

Fear drives people to condemn other churches and efforts to move toward unity, said Boldt.

“They live in fear. I can’t do anything about them, God bless them.”

Posted: Jan. 24, 2014 • Permanent link:
Categories: Catholic Register, Evangelical-Roman Catholic DialogueIn this article: Catholic, Donald Bolen, ecumenism, Evangelicals, WPCU
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Catégorie : Catholic Register, Evangelical-Roman Catholic DialogueDans cet article : Catholic, Donald Bolen, ecumenism, Evangelicals, WPCU

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