NEWS – Methodists, Catholics celebrate 55 years of ecumenical dialogue

by Christopher White
National Catholic Report
14 November 2022

When Pope Francis celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II on Oct. 11, he paid tribute to the ways the council led to an opening of the Catholic Church’s relationships with other Christian churches.

But only one of those groups has been in official continuous dialogue with the Holy See since the council: the Methodists.

At the end of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI invited a number of churches to formal theological dialogue. In 1966, the worldwide communion of Methodist and Wesleyan churches were invited and they held their first formal meeting a year later.

“We received the invitation with great enthusiasm,” the Rev. Matthew Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome, told NCR, recalling the response of the Methodists at the time. “And we’ve never taken a break in our work.”

Just before the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, from Oct. 2-8, members of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, which is the official theological dialogue body between the World Methodist Council and the Holy See, met in Rome to begin a new cycle of dialogue under the theme “unity and mission.”

According to Laferty, co-secretary of the commission, the dialogues take place in five-year cycles under different themes and provide an occasion for a theological exploration of certain issues, and social and moral concerns “within the broader context of how our two churches might respond to those issues.”

During this year’s Rome gathering, the commission spent time hearing papers and discussing a range of topics, including synodality and each other’s understanding of the hierarchy of truths.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay of Sandhurst, Australia, co-chair of the commission, told NCR that while much ecumenical work, such as the recent meeting between Methodists and Catholics, may go unnoticed, it is essential for the shared goal of unity.

“Jesus established one church. And anything that we do that diminishes that unity takes us further away from that mission,” said Mackinlay.

On Oct. 5, Pope Francis received the members of the commission — who hail from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States — in a private audience, where they presented him with a copy of the report from their recently completed 11th round of dialogue.

The report, “God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full Communion in Faith, Sacraments and Mission,” discusses the ways the two churches understand the work of reconciliation.

Mackinlay said that when Francis was presented a copy of the report, which uses the parable of the prodigal son, the pope noted that the father in the story has two sons and both Catholics and Methodists alike need to repent for their divisions in order to return to the father. 

“Ecumenism is not about one party returning because they’ve wandered off, while the other stayed home,” Macklinay said. “It’s about all the parties recognizing the ways in which each of us have moved away from the father’s house and need to recover.”

Fr. Anthony Currer, the commission’s outgoing Catholic co-secretary, told NCR that the report is the first ecumenical dialogue in the Catholic Church’s relationships with other Western churches that examines the question of sacramental reconciliation.

“We might think we were a long way apart but under closer examination some of that distance collapses and we find real convergence,” he said.

“Catholics can recognize that Methodists do celebrate liturgically the forgiveness Jesus made present among us, some in forms close to Catholic sacramental reconciliation, but all in forms that are based on what we know as the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass,” Currer said.

Mackinlay noted that the new report is not just inward looking, but also has a missional element focusing on the needed role of reconciliation in the world today.

It also includes a liturgical text for Methodists and Catholics to join together in a service for “renewing our commitment to reconciliation as churches.”

During the commission’s week in Rome, members also met with officials from the Vatican’s synod office, the department responsible for overseeing Pope Francis’ ongoing consultation process with the world’s Catholics.

Both Laferty and Mackinlay noted that synodality has a role to play in the work of ecumenism through listening to and integrating the perspectives of other Christian communions, as well as hopefully healing divides between churches.

“It is clear that Catholics need to continue to walk with and explore these questions learning from our ecumenical partners,” said Currer, referring to what he called a “receptive ecumenism.”

“We recognize that these Christian communities are used by God and have therefore been blessed and gifted by the Spirit,” he added. “What the Spirit has given to them needs to be received by us for our own ecclesial healing.”

Macklinay said that after 55 years of nonstop dialogue, the two communions are committed to the ongoing work of shared prayer, thoughtful listening and engagement  to continually ask “What can we learn from one another to bring us closer to being the church that Jesus wants us to be?”

Photo: Pope Francis accepts a report from Fr. Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric, the new Methodist co-chair of the Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Catholic Church, during an audience with members of the commission at the Vatican Oct. 5. Colón-Emeric is dean of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, N.C., USA (Vatican Media)

The story is reposted from National Catholic Report. The original story can be found on the NCR website.

NEWS – World Methodist Council President, Vice President Visit Rome, October 2022

ROME (MEOR) – The Rev. Prof. Jong Chun Park and Ms. Gillian Kingston, respectively the president and vice president of the World Methodist Council, made a visit to Rome from 20-25 October 2022, on mission to promote peace as well as support the ministry of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome.

On Thursday, 20 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston paid their first visit of the trip to the Rev. Luca Anziani, president of the Methodist Churches in Italy (OPCEMI). During their visit, the World Methodist Council leaders congratulated Rev. Anziani on his recent election as president, thanked Rev. Anziani and OPCEMI for their continued support and partnership with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, and discussed the Italian Methodist commitment to migrants and refugees. Rev. Anziani shared the importance of dialogue and the role played in such dialogues by minority churches like the Methodist Churches in Italy (OPCEMI). Rev. Anziani presented Prof Park a copy of the new liturgical texts published jointly by the Methodist and Waldensian churches. OPCEMI received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2018. Following their meeting, Prof. Park and Ms. Kingston met with Rev Luca Baratto, Ms. Marta Bernardini, and Ms. Fiona Kendall of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). Rev Baratto overviewed the Federation’s work and Ms. Bernardini and Ms. Kendall gave an in-depth presentation on ‘Mediterranean Hope’, an FCEI project supporting migrants and refugees through a number of programs including humanitarian corridors from Libya, refugee reception in Lampedusa, and migrant worker support in Abruzzi. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston were impressed by the project and were particularly interested with the connection to the 2024 World Methodist Conference theme ‘On the Move’.

Later on Thursday, 20 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston also attended a special symposium, co-hosted by the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome and Centro Pro Unione, on the late Methodist theologian Revd Prof Geoffrey Wainwright. The event, titled “The Heritage of Geoffrey Wainwright as Liturgist, Theologian, and Ecumenist”, highlighted the various aspects of Prof Wainwright’s academic work and was attended by over 40 people. There were three main speakers for the event – Rev Prof Bryan Spinks (Yale University), Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck (Wesley House Cambridge), and Rev Dr William Rusch (New York Theological Seminary). Following the main lectures, there was a special panel of Prof Wainwright’s former colleagues and friends who spoke about personal aspects of Prof Wainwright’s life; the panel was comprised of Rev Prof Bernhard Eckerstorfer OSB (Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo), Ms. Gillian Kingston (World Methodist Council), and Archbishop Don Bolen (Catholic Diocese of Regina). Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, attended the symposium and greeted Prof Park and Ms. Kingston after the program. Along with Rev Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, Rev Prof James Puglisi SA, director of Centro Pro Unione, and Rev Martin Browne OSB, the new official for Methodist relations at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston joined the event speakers for dinner afterwards.

On Friday, 21 October, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston visited the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, where the tomb of the Apostle Paul is located, followed by a series of meetings with Vatican officials and ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The World Methodist Council leaders met H.Em. Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, to discuss Methodist-Catholic relations, the recent publication of ‘God in Christ Reconciling’ by the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, and recent developments in the World Methodist Council. Prof Park thanked Cardinal Koch for his support of and the Dicastery’s collaboration with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston also met with H.E. Frances Collins, ambassador-designate of the Republic of Ireland to the Holy See. Ms. Kingston and Ambassador Collins hail from the same county in Ireland. During their meeting, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston shared with Ambassador Collins about the World Methodist Council’s peace-related projects and discussed the role of Methodists in peace-making in Northern Ireland. Following this encounter, Prof Park and MS Kingston met H.Em Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and several members of his staff. Cardinal Czerny explained the new configuration regarding the work of the Dicastery, which is charged with implementing activities and projects related to the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The Dicastery has shifted to responding to requests from national Catholic bishops’ conferences for accompaniment and expertise on social issues (a bottom-up approach), as opposed to mandating the activities of the national Catholic bishops’ conferences (a top-down approach). Prof Park and Ms. Kingston affirmed the Methodist commitment to peace and to migrants and refugees and encouraged Cardinal Czerny to foster ecumenical encounter as part of the Dicastery’s initiatives. The last meeting of the day was with H.E. Choo Hyo-ho, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See, at his residence in northern Rome. Prof Park and MS Kingston shared with Ambassador Choo regarding the Council’s peace initiatives and spoke in detail about the WMC Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula. Prof Park also shared his desire for a delegation from North Korea to attend the World Methodist Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, in August 2024.

Ms. Kingston was received by H.G. Archbishop Ian Ernest, personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See, on Saturday, 22 October.

On Sunday, 23 October, Ms. Kingston met Prof Mario Cignoni, secretary general of the Bible Society of Italy, accompanied by MEOR administrator Stefanie Gabuyo. Ms. Kingston is the president of the National Bible Society of Ireland. The World Methodist Council leaders worshipped at Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church where the congregation celebrated Harvest Sunday; the service was led by the Rev Dr Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman. Ms. Kingston preached and Prof Park offered special prayers for peace and reconciliation. Following the worship service, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston met H.E. Jean Jude Piquant, ambassador of the Republic of Haiti to the Holy See, and discussed the work of the World Methodist Council and the importance of religious leaders promoting peace. Prof Park and Ms. Kingston visited the Abbey of Three Fountains, the historic execution site of the Apostle Paul. Later that day, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace opened in Rome under the theme ‘The Cry of Peace’, with Prof Park, Ms. Kingston, and MEOR director the Rev Matthew A. Laferty as members of the Methodist delegation. Prof Park was extended a place of honor during the opening ceremony. Mr. Sergio Matterella, president of the Republic of Italy, and Mr. Emmanuel Macron, president of the Republic of France, addressed the audience.

On Monday, 24 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace held various plenary sessions on the meeting’s theme. Prof Park spoke on a panel on “The Word of God Generates Vision” and Ms. Kingston spoke on a panel on “Mother Earth: One Planet, One Humanity.” Rev Laferty was a discussant on the panel “The Great Opportunity: Migrations and the Future.” Throughout the day, the delegation met a number of religious leaders from various faith communities and built new friendships.

On the morning of Tuesday, 25 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace continued, with Prof Park and Rev Laferty attending. Ms. Kingston was unable to extend her trip to attend the proceedings on Tuesday and returned to Ireland. Rev Dn. Alessandra Trotta, moderator of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, also joined the Methodist delegation. Prof Park met Rev Ki-seok Hong and Rev Jong Kim, pastors of the Korean Methodist congregation in Rome, accompanied by Rev Laferty and Ms. Gabuyo, for luncheon to learn about the ministry of the Korean Methodist congregation and the broader Korean-language Methodist work in Italy. Following the luncheon, Prof Park and Rev Laferty were joined by Rev Anziani at the Colosseum for Christian prayers for peace. Prof Park was among a small group of senior church leaders from various Christian confessions to lead the prayers alongside Pope Francis. Prior to the prayers, Pope Francis personally greeted Prof Park. After the prayers, the delegation joined other leaders from various religious traditions for the closing ceremony of the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace. A special dinner was held in the Palace of Exhibitions in central Rome for invited participants. The Methodist delegation was seated with brothers of the Taize Community and engaged in a rich conversation of the importance of outreach to young people and trends among this demographic.

Throughout the entire trip, Prof Park and Ms. Kingston were accompanied by Rev Laferty. Additionally, Ms. Gabuyo, MEOR administrator, supported the visit and accompanied the delegation during several appointments.

The Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome is the presence of the World Methodist Council in Rome for ecumenical dialogue, joint action for peace and justice, prayer and reflection, and hospitality.

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DIALOGUE – World Methodist Leaders Participate in Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace

Several world Methodist leaders attended the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace in Rome from 23-25 October, under the theme ‘The Cry of Peace’. The Rev Prof Jong Chun Park, president of the World Methodist Council, Ms. Gillian Kingston, vice president of the World Methodist Council, and the Rev Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, were members of the Methodist delegation. During the opening plenary on Sunday, 23 October, Mr. Sergio Matterella, president of the Republic of Italy, and Mr. Emmanuel Macron, president of the Republic of France, addressed the audience.

On Monday, 24 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace held various plenary sessions on the meeting’s theme. Prof Park spoke on a panel on “The Word of God Generates Vision” and Ms. Kingston spoke on a panel on “Mother Earth: One Planet, One Humanity.” Rev Laferty was a discussant on the panel “The Great Opportunity: Migrations and the Future.” Throughout the day, the Methodist delegation met a number of religious leaders from various faith communities and built new friendships.

On the morning of Tuesday, 25 October, the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace continued, with Prof Park and Rev Laferty attending. Ms. Kingston was unable to extend her trip to attend the proceedings on Tuesday and returned home. Rev Dn. Alessandra Trotta, moderator of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, also joined the Methodist delegation. Following lunch, Prof Park and Rev Laferty were joined by Rev Luca Anziani, president of the Methodist Churches in Italy, at the Colosseum for Christian prayers for peace as organized by the Sant’Egidio Community. Prof Park was among a small group of senior church leaders from various Christian confessions to lead the prayers alongside Pope Francis. Prior to the prayers, Pope Francis personally greeted Prof Park. After the prayers, the delegation joined other leaders from various religious traditions for the closing ceremony of the Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Peace. A special dinner was held in the Palace of Exhibitions in central Rome for invited participants.

The Methodist delegation would like to thank the Sant’Egidio Community for their gracious hospitality, excellent organization, and passion for dialogue.

NEWS – Wainwright Symposium Attracted Global Audience, 20 October

The Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome and the Centro Pro Unione jointly held a special symposium on the late Methodist theologian the Revd Dr Geoffrey Wainwright on Thursday, 20 October 2022 at Centro Pro Unione. Prof Wainwright died on 17 March 2020 at the age of 79.

The symposium memorialized the life of Prof Wainwright as a liturgist, theologian, and ecumenist. Always quick to quote the hymns of Charles Wesley, Prof Wainwright was known for book Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine and Life (1984). He was an intregral drafter of the seminal WCC Faith and Order document – Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry – which been utilized as a foundation text in theological dialogue. Prof Wainwright also served 25 years as the Methodist co-chair of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, the joint theological dialogue commission between the World Methodist Council and the Holy See.

The symposium comprised 3 main lectures by Rev Prof Bryan Spinks (Yale), Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck (Wesley House Cambridge), and Rev Dr William Rusch (Yale). Following the lectures, a special panel of former students, colleagues, and friends spoke about the personal encounters with Prof Wainwright. The panel was comprised of Rev Prof Bernhard Eckerstrofer OSB (Sant’Anselmo), Prof Gillian Kingston (World Methodist Council), and Archbishop Don Bolen (Catholic Diocese of Regina).

The symposium attracted over 40 participants.

NEWS – Communique from Methodist-Catholic Commission Plenary, October 2022

The Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission (MERCIC) met at the Casa Maria Immacolata, Rome, from 2nd-8th October 2022 for the first plenary meeting of a new round of dialogue. The Commission has met without interruption since its foundation in 1967 and now begins its twelfth round on the theme of unity and mission. The gathering was hosted by the World Methodist Council with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome as the local meeting organizer.

The Commission met with a broad agenda of mission and unity, conscious of the forthcoming anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, the current needs and developments of both communions, and the pressing need for unity between us “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). In order to discern its focus for this round of dialogue, the Commission heard papers on: scripture texts from John 17 and Acts 15; the Missio Dei; hearing the cry of the poor; the Council of Nicaea; synodal and conferencing practices within our communions; the implications of mission for belief; recognition; the Wesleyan essentials; and the hierarchy of truths. On the basis of these contributions, the Commission developed a schema for its future work which will seek to chart a pathway towards unity with a missiological lens, taking account of the theological convergence that the dialogue has already achieved.

The Commission began its meeting on 3rd October with prayer at Ponte Sant’ Angelo Methodist Church in Rome, praying the historic Wesleyan Covenant Service together. Commission members were joined by ecumenical representatives and members of the diplomatic community. The Rev. Prof. Edgardo Colon-Emeric preached the opening sermon on Ephesians 4, stating the ecumenical call is perennial, hopeful, and missional. Following the prayer service, the Rev. Deacon Alessandra Trotta, a Methodist deacon currently serving as the moderator of the governing council of the Waldensian Evangelical Church (Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches), addressed the Commission, describing the current ecumenical challenges for Methodists in Italy as well as the special union between Methodist and Waldensian churches in Italy. Additionally, Rev. Prof. Daniele Garrone and Rev. Luca Baratto, respectively the president and the executive secretary of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, shared with the Commission members the work of the Federation.

On Wednesday, 5th October, the Commission met Pope Francis in a private audience and presented to him the report of the eleventh round of dialogue—God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full Communion in Faith, Sacraments and Mission. Commenting on the parable of the two sons (Luke 15:11-32)—the text chosen by the Commission for its scriptural reflection—Pope Francis noted that both Catholics and Methodists need to repent and return to the Father in order for unity to come about, because through their divisions, both have sinned and strayed from the Father.

The Commission met H.Em. Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Secretary General and Undersecretary respectively of the General Secretariat of the Synod, on 5th October. Following a shared meal with Commission members, Cardinal Grech and Sr Nathalie explained the current progress of the synodal process being pursued by the Catholic Church and how ecumenical and inter-religious voices constituted an important part of the Catholic Church’s listening to the Holy Spirit. Commission members shared about Methodist theologies of conferencing and discernment, expressed their hopes and fears of the process, and discussed their own experiences of the synodal process thus far.

On Thursday, 6th October, H.E. Chiara Porro, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, and her spouse, Mr Rien Schuurhuis, hosted the Commission for dinner at their residence. Over dinner the Ambassador explained aspects of the Embassy’s collaboration with the Holy See regarding questions of environmental justice, the dignity of women, and counter human trafficking.

On Friday, 7th October, the Commission launched the report of its eleventh round, God in Christ Reconciling, presenting the text as the first of a new series of Tillard Chair Lectures on the theme of reconciliation, held at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome. The Rev. Prof. Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric, Prof. Catherine E. Clifford, Dr Clare Watkins, and the Rev. Dr Hermen Shastri, all members who participated in the eleventh round, presented chapters of the report. The current Catholic co-chair, Bishop Shane Mackinlay, read a message from the previous co-chairs at the beginning of the presentation.

At the closing dinner on 7th October, Fr. Anthony Currer, outgoing Catholic co-secretary, was recognized for his distinguished service to the Commission as he concludes his tenure at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. Fr. Martin Browne OSB will succeed Fr. Currer as the new Catholic co-secretary.

The Commission is grateful to all who met with them and received them so graciously during their plenary meeting. In particular, the Commission extends its gratitude to the community of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and all who work at Casa Maria Immacolata for their gracious hospitality and to the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome for their excellent organizing.

The Commission will meet again in October 2023.

The Commission is made up of:

Methodist Members
Reverend Prof. Edgardo A. Colón–Emeric (Co-Chair), USA
Reverend Matthew A. Laferty (Co-Secretary), Methodist Ecumenical Office, Rome
Dr Jung Choi, Korea/USA
Dr Geordan Hammond, United Kingdom
Bishop Lizzette Gabriel Montalvo, Puerto Rico
Reverend Prof. Glen O’Brien, Australia
Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri, Malaysia
Prof. Lilian Cheelo Siwila, South Africa

Catholic Members
Bishop Shane Mackinlay (Co-Chair), Australia
Reverend Anthony Currer (outgoing Co-Secretary), Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome
Reverend Martin Browne OSB (incoming Co-Secretary), Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome
Prof. Catherine E. Clifford, Canada
Reverend Prof. Gerard Kelly, Australia
Sister Prof. MarySylvia Nwachukwu DDL, Nigeria
Reverend Prof. Daniel Franklin Pilario CM, Philippines
Reverend Prof. Jorge Scampini OP, Argentina
Dr Clare Watkins, United Kingdom

Photo: The Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission on 5 October 2022 (c) Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome