Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

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The Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue

Co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston and Vision New England

The Boston-area Catholic-Evangelical dialogue had its start around 1990 in an informal conversation between Reverend Steve Macchia of the Evangelistic Association of New England (now called Vision New England) and Fr. John MacInnis of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Out of that initial contact, a co-sponsored dialogue group has continued to meet three or four times a year since 1993. Members of the dialogue are invited to participate by their respective church organizations.

The general format of the meetings has been varied, having included overnight retreats, as well as facilitated study or discussion sessions on issues of theological, doctrinal, scriptural, or pastoral interest. Each dialogue session begins with prayer and an opportunity to share life and ministerial experiences in the context of Christian faith. Over time, through this process of personal witness and discussion, an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust among the participants has been established and deepened. This makes it possible for the participants to engage in a candid discussion of the complex issues that unite and divide Catholics and Evangelicals.

Religious dialogue is not always easy.  Although there is a great deal of common ground between Evangelicals and Catholics, there is also much over which we disagree. Sadly, our mutual relations have often been characterized by misunderstanding, suspicion, and polemic. Dialogue can offer the opportunity to move beyond this history. Such dialogue, however, is not negotiation. We are not trying to modify our doctrine to suit one another or to find an acceptable theological compromise. Rather, the purpose of this dialogue is to understand one another more accurately and to dispel the mutual distortions that have so often replaced real comprehension.

Those who participate in this dialogue, as well as in countless other ecumenical dialogues throughout the world, do so in a spirit of trust in the power of the Lord’s prayer: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20 – 21). Is it too much to hope that one day we may know that unity for which the Lord prayed and which he desires? Can the search for unity and the work of dialogue among Christians be anything other than a loving response to the one whom we call Lord?  For he said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

See the topics and texts discussed in the Catholic-Evangelical dialogue here

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
“A Select Bibliography of Catholic Documents and Statements on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations” 

From the Select Bibliography, see especially, “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” issued by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, October 31, 1999. 

A landmark document in ecumenical dialogue, the Joint Declaration is intended to show that the subscribing Lutheran Churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ. The document encompasses a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification and shows that the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.

From the Select Bibliography, see especially, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” 

The product of consultation between Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians, scholars, and religious leaders, this is a non-official statement of the fruits of their mutual discovery concerning areas of theological and pastoral consensus as well as the recognition of differences that remain unresolved.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity 
“The Promise of Benedict XVI” and other articles from Christianity Today 
Archive of articles from Christianity Today concerning the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics.