WASHINGTON (November 25, 2003) -- An in-depth look at two major "church-dividing" issues in the 16th century that lay at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, the sacramental understanding of Eucharist and Baptism, formed the agenda as the Seventh Round of the official CatholicReformed consultation began. These issues, as raised by the reformer John Calvin and his followers-no less than the doctrine of justification by faith alone, raised by Martin Luther and reconciled in the recent, historic agreement between the Holy See and the Lutheran World Federationsplit the Church in the West and are considered to be at the heart of any progress toward eventual reunion.
Because of both the Lutheran-Catholic agreement on justification and covenants of communion between Lutherans and Reformed Christians, Lutheran observers will be present at and participate in the Reformed-Catholic discussions.
The Seventh Round of the consultation began with a meeting at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, September 24-26. Dr. Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Bishop Patrick Cooney of Gaylord, Michigan, are co-chairs of the Consultation.
The American dialogue between Reformed and Catholic Christians began in 1965. Previous discussions have led to innovations in several areas of ecumenical reflection, such as the ministry, structure, and nature of "the unity we seek" (1975), the implications for church unity of the respective stances on questions of abortion (1980) and war and peace (1988). The two more recent consultations have produced practical and well-received pastoral and congregation resource materials: Laity in the Church and the World (USCCB publications, 1988) and Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope (Westminster John Knox Press and USCCB, 2002).
Reformed Churches taking part in the dialogue with Catholics include the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Joining them for the first time will be representatives of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, which last year engaged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a discussion of whether its Heidelberg Catechism, produced by the Reformed tradition shortly after the Council of Trent in the 16th century, accurately depicted the Catholic understanding of the Mass. The constructive reaction of the Christian Reformed Church to the response that it did not adequately portray catholic teaching represents, according to Father Arthur Kennedy, Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, "a significant ecumenical achievement, giving rise to renewed hopes for unity."
In addition to the co-chairs, participants in the Consultation are:
(Catholic) Dr. Ralph Del Colle, Marquette University; Msgr. Alan Detscher, St. Catherine of Siena parish, Riverside, CT; Father Kennedy of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Sister Joyce Ann Zimmerman, C.PP.S., Institute for Liturgical Ministry, Dayton, OH; Fr. Dennis E. Tamburello, OFM, professor of Religious Studies, Siena College, Loudonville, NY; Dr. William B. Stevenson, professor of Catholic Studies, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. Staff: Dr. Eugene Fisher, Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
(Reformed) Christian Reformed Church in North America: Dr. Lyle Bierma, professor of Systematic Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI; Dr. Ronald Feenstra, professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary; Staff: Rev. Dr. David Engelhard, General Secretary, CRC.
Presbyterian Church, (USA): Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish, assistant professor of Liturgical Studies, Yale Divinity School; Staff: Rev. Robina Winbush, Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relationships, PCUSA.
Reformed Church in America: Rev. Rene House, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, New Brunswick Theology Seminary, NJ; Rev. John Paarlberg, Senior Minister, First Reformed Church, Albany, NY; Staff: Rev. Douglas W. Fromm, Associate for Ecumenical Relations, Office of the General Synod, RCA.
United Church of Christ: Rev. Dr. Sidney Fowler, Cleveland; Rev. Dr. John Riggs, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis; Staff: Rev. Lydia Veliko, Minister for Ecumenical Relations, UCC.
Lutheran Observer/Participants: Rev. Scott Ickert, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Arlington, VA, and Rev. Randy Lee, Department of Ecumenical Affairs, ELCA.