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FINAL REPORT OF THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE SECRETARIAT
FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND LEADERS OF SOME PENTECOSTAL CHURCHES AND PARTICIPANTS
IN THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT WITHIN PROTESTANT
AND ANGLICAN CHURCHES: 1972-1976

Introduction

1. The series of talks described as the Roman Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue had its beginning in the contacts made by individual members of the Pentecostal Churches with the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in 1969 and 1970. With the assistance of Rev. David du Plessis, an international Pentecostal leader, noted figure among Pentecostals and a guest at the Second Vatican Council, and Fr. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., Director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, U.S.A., the initial impulse was clarified and concrete proposals began to emerge.

2. In 1970 the first of two exploratory meetings was held to see if a serious theological discussion between Roman Catholics and Pentecostals on the international level would be possible. The first gathering was largely an occasion for beginning to know one another. At the second meeting in 1971 each side put "hard" questions to the other, a more purposeful conversation resulted, and it became clear that it would be possible to undertake discussions of a more systematic kind.

3. Therefore, later in 1971, a small steering committee with members from both sides worked out a program of topics which could be treated at meetings over a five-year period.

4. The dialogue has a special character. The bilateral conversations which the Roman Catholic Church undertakes with many world communions (e.g. the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran World Federation etc.) are prepared to consider problems concerning church structures and ecclesiology and have organic unity as a goal or at least envisage some kind of eventual structural unity. This dialogue has not. Before it began it was made clear that its immediate scope was not "to concern itself with the problems of imminent structural union", although of course its object was Christians coming closer together in prayer and common witness. Its purpose has been that "prayer, spirituality and theological reflection be a shared concern at the international level in the form of a dialogue between the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church and leaders of some Pentecostal Churches and participants in the charismatic movements within Protestant and Anglican Churches".

5. The dialogue has sought "to explore the life and spiritual experience of Christians and the Churches", "to give special attention to the meaning for the Church of fullness of life in the Holy Spirit", attending to "both the experiential and theological dimensions" of that life. "Through such dialogue" those who participate "hope to share in the reality of the mystery of Christ and the Church, to build a united testimony, to indicate in what manner the sharing of truth makes it possible ... to grow together".

Certain areas of doctrinal agreement have been looked at with a view to eliminating mutual misunderstandings. At the same time, there has been no attempt to minimize points of real divergence. One of these, for example, is the importance given to faith and to experience, and their relation in Christian life.

7. The dialogue has been between the Roman Catholic Church and some Pentecostal Churches. Here, too, there have been special features. On the Roman Catholic side, it has had the usual authorization given by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to such meetings on an international scale and the participants were appointed officially by the Secretariat. The Pentecostal participants were either appointed officially by their individual Churches (and in several cases are leaders of these Churches), or else came with some kind of approbation of their Churches. Therefore, it has been a dialogue with some Pentecostal Churches and with delegates of others. These are Churches which came into being over the last fifty or sixty years when some Protestant churches expelled those who made speaking in tongues and other charismatic manifestations an integral part of their spirituality.

8. In addition, there were participants in the charismatic movement who were invited by the Pentecostals. They belong to Anglican or Protestant Churches which already have bilateral dialogues in progress with the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, it is as participants in the charismatic movement and not primarily as members of their own Churches that they share in the dialogue.

9. It was also pointed out in the beginning that "this dialogue is not directly concerned with the domestic pastoral question of the relationship of the charismatic movement among Catholics to the Catholic Church. The dialogue may help indirectly to clarify this relationship but this is not the direct concern of our deliberations".[1]

10. At the first meeting of the dialogue in Horgen, Switzerland, June 1972, an exegetical approach was taken in order to study "baptism in the Holy Spirit" in the New Testament, its relation to repentance and the process of sanctification and the relation of the charismata to it. At Rome in June, 1973 the second meeting was devoted to the historic background of the Pentecostal movement, the relation of baptism in the Holy Spirit to the rites of Christian initiation, and the role of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit in the mystical tradition. The third meeting, held at Schloss Craheim, West Germany, June 1974, focused on the theology of Christian initiation, the nature of sacramental activity, infant and adult baptism. At the fourth meeting held in Venice, May 1975, the areas of public worship (especially eucharistic celebration), the human dimension in the exercise of the spiritual gifts, and discerning of spirits were the main concern. In Rome, May 1976 the final session was devoted to the topic of prayer and praise.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

11. In the New Testament the expression "to baptize in the Holy Spirit" (Mk 1, 8) is used to express, in contrast to the baptism of John, (jn 1, 33) the baptism by Jesus who gives the Spirit to the new eschatological people of God, the Church (Acts 1, 5). All men are called to enter into this community through faith in Christ who makes them disciples through baptism and sharers of his Spirit (Acts 2, 38, 39).

12. In the Pentecostal movement "being baptized in the Spirit", "being filled with the Holy Spirit", and "receiving the Holy Spirit" are understood as occurring in a decisive experience distinct from conversion whereby the Holy Spirit manifests himself, empowers and transforms one's life, and enlightens one as to the whole reality of the Christian mystery (Acts 2, 4; 8, 17; 10, 44; 19, 6).

13. It is the Spirit of Christ which makes a Christian (1 Cor 12, 13) and that life is " Christian" inasmuch as it is under the Spirit and is characterized by openness to his transforming power. The Spirit is sovereignly free, distributing his gifts to whomsoever he wills, whenever and howsoever he wills (1 Cor 12, 11 ; Jn 3, 7, 8). There is also the human responsibility to seek after what God has promised (1 Cor 14, 1). This full life in the Spirit is growth in Christ (Eph 4, 15, 16) which must be purified continually. On the other hand, due to one's unfaithfulness to the promptings of the Spirit (Gal 6, 7-9; 1 Jn 3, 24) this growth can be arrested. But also new ways open up and new crises occur which could be milestones of progress in the Christian life (2 Cor 3, 17, 18; 2 Cor 4, 8-11).

14. The participants are conscious that during the nineteen centuries other terms have been used to express this experience called "baptism in the Holy Spirit". It is one used today by the Pentecostal movement. Other expressions are "being filled with the Holy Spirit", "receiving the Holy Spirit". These expressions should not be used to exclude traditional understandings of the experience of and faith in the reality of Christian initiation.

15. The Holy Spirit gratuitously manifests himself in signs and charisms for the common good (Mk 16, 17 -18), working in and through but going beyond the believer's natural ability. There is a great variety of ministries in which the Spirit manifests himself. Without minimizing the importance of these experiences or denying the fruitfulness of these gifts for the church, the participants wished to lay stronger stress on faith, hope and charity as sure guides in responding to God (1 Cor 13, 13-14, 1; 1 Thess 1, 3-5). Precisely out of respect for the Spirit and his gifts it is necessary to discern between true gifts and their counterfeits (1 Thess 5, 22; 1 Jn 4, 1-4). In this discernment process the spiritual authority in the church has its own specific ministry (1 Jn 4, 6; Acts 20, 28-31 ; 1 Cor 14, 37, 38) because it has special concern for the common good, the unity of the church and her mission in the world (Rom 15, 17-19; Acts 1, 8).

Christian Initiation and the Gifts

16. From the earliest non-canonical texts of the Church there is witness to the celebration of Christian initiation (baptism, laying on of hands/chrismation, eucharist) as clearly expressing the request for and the actual reception of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in all Christians (Rom 8, 9), and not just in those "baptized in the Holy Spirit". The difference between a committed Christian without such a Pentecostal experience and one with such an experience is generally not only a matter of theological focus, but also that of expanded openness and expectancy with regard to the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Because the Holy Spirit apportions as he wills in freedom and sovereignty, the religious experiences of persons can differ. He blows where he wills (Jn 3, 8). Though the Holy Spirit never ceased manifesting himself throughout the entire history of the church, the manner of the manifestations has differed according to the times and cultures. However, in the Pentecostal movement, the manifestation of tongues has had, and continues to have, particular importance.

17. During times of spiritual renewal when charismatic elements are more manifest, tensions can arise because of prejudice, lack of mutual understanding and communication. Also, at such times as this the discerning of spirits is more necessary than ever. This necessity should not lead to discernment being misused so as to exclude charismatic manifestations.

The true exercise of the charisms takes place in love and leads to a greater fidelity to Christ and his church The presence of charismatic gifts is not a sign of spiritual maturity and those who lack experience of such gifts are not considered to be inferior Christians. Love is the context in which all gifts are rightly exercised, love being of a more definitive and primary order than the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 13). In varying degrees all the charisms are ministries directed to the building up of the community and witness in mission. For this reason mystical experiences, which are more generally directed toward personal communion with God, are distinguished from charismatic experiences which, while including personal communion with God, are directed more to ministerial service.

The Giving of the Spirit and Christian Initiation

18. The Holy Spirit, being the agent of regeneration, is given in Christian initiation, not as a commodity but as he who unifies us with Christ and the Father in a personal relationship. Being a Christian includes the reception of grace through the Holy Spirit for one's own sanctification as well as gifts to be ministered to others. In some manner all ministry is a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. It was not agreed whether there is a further imparting of the Spirit with a view to charismatic ministry, or whether baptism in the Holy Spirit is, rather, a kind of release of a certain aspect of the Spirit already given. An inconclusive discussion occurred on the question as to how many impartings of the Spirit there were. Within classical Pentecostalism some hold that through regeneration the Holy Spirit comes into us, and that later in the baptism in the Spirit the Spirit comes upon us and begins to flow from us. Finally, charisms are not personal achievements but are sovereign manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism

19. Baptism involves a passing over from the kingdom of darkness to Christ's kingdom of light, and always includes a communal dimension of being baptized into the one Body of Christ. The implications of this concord were not developed.

20. In regard to baptism, the New Testament reflects the missionary situation of the apostolic generation of the Church and does not clearly indicate what may have happened in the second and following generation of believers.

21. In that missionary situation Christian initiation involved a constellation normally including proclamation of the Gospel, faith repentance, baptism in water, the receiving of the Spirit. There was disagreement as to the relationship of these items, and the order in which they mayor should occur. In both the Pentecostal and Roman Catholic tradition laying on of hands may be used to express the giving of the Spirit. Immersion is the ideal form which most aptly expresses the significance of baptism. Some, however, regard immersion as essential, others do not.

22. In discussing infant baptism, certain convergences were noted:

a) Sacraments are in no sense magical and are effective only in relationship to faith.

23. b) God's gift precedes and makes possible human receiving. Even though there was disagreement on the application of this principle, there was accord on the assertion that God's grace operates in advance of our conscious awareness.

24. c) Where paedobaptism is not practiced and the children of believing parents are presented and dedicated to God, the children are thus brought into the care of the Christian community and enjoy the special protection of the Lord.

25. d) Where paedobaptism is practiced it is fully meaningful only in the context of the faith of the parents and the community. The parents must undertake to nurture the child in the Christian life, in the expectation that, when he or she grows up, the child will personally live and affirm faith in Christ.

26. Representatives of the charismatic movement in the historic churches expressed different views on baptism. Some agreed substantially with the Roman Catholic, others with the classical Pentecostal view.

27. Attention was drawn to the pastoral problem of persons baptised in infancy seeking a new experience of baptism by immersion later in life. It was stated that in a few traditions rites have been devised, involving immersion in water in order to afford such an experience. The Roman Catholics felt there were already sufficient opportunities within the existing liturgy for reaffirming one's baptism. Rebaptism in the strict sense of the word is unacceptable to all. Those participants who reject paedobaptism, however, explained that they do not consider as rebaptism the baptism of a believing adult who has received infant baptism. This serious ecumenical problem requires future study.

Scripture, Tradition and Developments

The church is always subject to sacred Scriptures. There was, however, considerable disagreement as to the role of tradition in interpretation of Scripture.

29. The Pentecostal and charismatic movements have brought to the understanding of Scripture a new relevance and freshness to confirm the conviction that Scripture has a special message, vital to each generation. Moreover, these movements challenge the exegetes to take a new look at the Sacred Text in the light of the new questions and expectations the movements bring to Scripture.

30. It was agreed that every church has history, and is inevitably affected by its past. Some developments in that past are good, some are questionable; some are enduring, some are only temporary. A discernment must be made on these developments by the churches.

Charismatic Renewal in the Historic Churches

31. The dialogue considered that in the context of the charismatic movement in the historic churches there was justification for new groups and communities within the churches. Though such movements have a legitimate prophetic character, their ultimate purpose is to strengthen the church, and to participate fully in her life. Therefore, the charismatic movement is not in competition with the churches, nor is it separate from them. Further, it should recognize the church authorities. In a word the charismatic renewal is a renewal in the Body of Christ, the church, and is therefore in and of the church.

Public Worship

32. Public worship should safeguard a whole composite of elements: spontaneity, freedom, discipline, objectivity. On the Roman Catholic side, it was noted that the new revised liturgy allows for more opportunities for spontaneous prayer and singing at the Eucharist and in the rites of penance. The Pentecostal tradition has come to accept a measure of structure in worship and recognizes the development in its own history toward some liturgy.

33. In the Roman Catholic context the phrase ex opere operato was discussed in relation to the celebration of the sacraments. The disquiet of some participants was removed by the explanation of the Roman Catholic doctrine of grace which stresses that the living faith of the recipient of a sacrament is of fundamental importance.

Public Worship and the Gifts

34. Corporate worship is a focal expression of the worshipper's daily life as he or she speaks to God and to other members of the community in songs of praise and words of thanksgiving (Eph 5, 19-20; 1 Cor 14, 26). Our Lord is present in the members of his body, manifesting himself in worship by means of a variety of charismatic expressions. He is also present by the power of his Spirit in the Eucharist. The participants recognized that there was a growing understanding of the unity which exists between the formal structure of the eucharistic celebration and the spontaneity of the charismatic gifts. This unity was exemplified by the Pauline relationship between chapters eleven to fourteen of I Corinthians.

The Human Aspect

35. There exists both a divine and human aspect to all genuinely charismatic phenomena. So far as concerns the human aspect, the phenomena can rightly be subject to psychological, linguistic, sociological, anthropological and other investigation which can provide some understanding of the diverse manifestations of the Holy Spirit. But the spiritual aspect of charismatic phenomena ultimately escapes a purely scientific examination. While there is no essential conflict between science and faith, nevertheless, science has inherent limitations, particularly with regard to the dimensions of faith and spiritual experience.

36. A survey of the scientific literature on speaking in tongues was presented. Another presentation outlined a Jungian psychological evaluation of the phenomenology of the Holy Spirit. However neither of these topics was developed adequately in discussion and they await more extended consideration. This could be done in the context of a future treatment of the place of speaking in tongues as an essential factor in the Pentecostal experience.

37. The relationship between science and the exercise of the spiritual gifts, including that of healing, was discussed. Classical Pentecostals, as well as other participants, believe that through the ministry of divine healing can come restoration to sound health. Full agreement was not reached in this matter in view of the importance of the therapeutic disciplines and the participants recommended further in-depth study.

Discernment of spirits

38. The New Testament witnesses to the charism of the discerning of spirits (1 Cor 12, 10), and also to a form of discernment through the testing of the spirits (1 Jn 4, 1), and the proving of the will of God (Rom 12, 2), each exercised in the power of the Spirit. There are different aspects of discernment of spirits which allow for human experience, wisdom and reason as a consequence of growth in the Spirit, while other aspects imply an immediate communication of the Spirit for discernment in a specific situation.

39. Discernment is essential to authentic ministry. The Pentecostal tradition lays stress on the discerning of spirits in order to find "the mind of the Spirit" for ministry and public worship. It is also understood as a diagnostic gift which leads to the further manifestation of other charismata for the edification of the Body of Christ and the work of the Gospel. The operation of this gift in dependence upon the Spirit develops both in the believer and community a growth in a mature sensitivity to the Spirit.

40. Normally, but not absolutely, expectancy is a requisite for the manifestations of the Spirit through human acts on the part of the believer and the community, that is, an openness which nevertheless respects the sovereignty of the Spirit in the distribution of his gifts. Because of human frailty, group pressure and other factors, it is possible for the believer to be mistaken or misled in his awareness of the Spirit's intention and influence in the believer's acts. It is for this reason that criteria are essential to confirm and authenticate the genuine operation of the Spirit of truth (1Jn 4, 1-6). These criteria must be based upon the scriptural foundation of the Incarnation, the Lordship of Christ and the building up of his church. The important element of community criteria involves the common wisdom of a group of believers, walking and living in the Spirit, when, led by those exercising the ministry of discernment, a mature discipline results and the group is capable of discerning the mind of God.

41. The Roman Catholic tradition understands such community discernment to be exercised by the whole church of which her leaders receive a special charism for this purpose. All traditions find a confirmatory individual criterion in the extent to which the believer is influenced in his daily life by the Spirit of Christ who produces love, joy, peace: the plenitude of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5, 22).

Prayer and Praise

42. The relationship between the objective and the subjective aspect of Christian life was raised. Prayer has two main forms; praise and petition. Both have an objective and a subjective aspect.

In the prayer of praise the essential aspect is worship itself, the adoration of the Father in the Spirit and in the truth of Christ (cf. Jn 4, 23-24). One of the expressions of this prayer of praise is the gift of tongues, with joy, enthusiasm, etc.

In the prayer of petition, the believer has always to distinguish between God the Giver, and the gift of God.

43. Also discussed was the relationship between the word of God and our experience of the Spirit. The Bible must always be a control and a guide in the Christian experience; but on the other hand, the spiritual experience itself constantly invites us to read the Bible spiritually, in order that it become living water in our Christian life.

44. We recognize multiple aspects of the total Christian experience which embraces the presence of God (joy, enthusiasm, consolation, etc.), and also the experience of our own sin and the experience of the absence of God, with Christ dying on the Cross (Mk 15, 34; Phil 3, 10); desolation, aridity and the acceptance of our personal death in Christ as an integral part of the authentic Christian life and also of the true praise of God.

Topics for Further Discussion

45. In the course of conversations a number of areas were touched on which are recommended for further study. Among them were the following:

a) Speaking in tongues as a characteristic aspect of the experience in the Pentecostal movement.
b)
The subjective dispositions relative to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
c)
The relationship between the faith of the individual and the faith of the community in terms of content.
d)
The relationship between faith and experience.
e)
The psychological dimension of charismatic experience.
f)
An examination of the charismata of healing and the casting out of demons.
g)
The relationship between the sacraments and conscious personal response of God.
h)
The nature of the sacramental event and, in this context, the nature of the church.
i)  
The problem of interpreting Scripture.
j)
The ministries and the ministry gifts: their purpose and operation.
k)
The social implications of spiritual renewal.

Character of the Final Report

46. The character of the final report compiled by the Steering Committee which has served the dialogue does not represent the official position of the classical Pentecostal denominations, of the charismatic movement in the historic Protestant churches, or of the Roman Catholic Church. Rather it represents the content of the discussions. Though the conclusions are the result of serious study and dialogue by responsible persons, it does not commit any of the churches or traditions to the theological positions here expressed, but is submitted to them for suitable use and reaction.

It has been the consensus of all participants that the dialogue has been an occasion of mutual enrichment and understanding and offers the promise of a continuing relationship.

 

[1] This quotation and all others used above are from the "Report of Steering Committee Meeting, Rome, 25-26 October, 1971".

 

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