July 17, 2015

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Methodist-Catholic dialogue echoes pope’s environment encyclical

The Methodist Church has been a very strong presence in Indiana since pioneer days. Circuit riders began to crisscross the state soon after the first communities were founded in Clark County in 1801. As the state grew, so did the Methodist Church.

We in the Catholic Church have been their neighbors for many years. But only in the more recent past have we begun to truly know of each other, locally and nationally.

The United Methodist-Catholic Dialogue was established in 1966. A wide variety of issues have been discussed over the 49 years, from education and ordained ministry to the Eucharist.

In the most recent round of dialogue, mutual concern for the environment and its relationship to the Eucharist are discussed. As I read through the pages of the report on this discussion, echoes of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” occurred again and again. What an overwhelming feeling of “one voice speaking” erupted within me! Truth is truth. And the fruit of dialogue with other Christian believers is truth.

The dialogue document begins with a reflection upon “divine salvation which encompasses creation, redemption, and consummation [the new creation].”

Continuing, it states: “While the Bible does not link ecology and Eucharist in an explicit manner, the connection is found in our shared historical tradition. … The Eucharist does not take us out of the world. Rather, our celebration of the Eucharist touches the heart of what it means to live on this Earth—as we yearn for a new heaven and a new Earth, sharing in that future glory even now.”

The more recent words of Pope Francis in “Laudato Si,” present a stirring “breaking open of the Word”—from Genesis to Psalms to the prophets and the Old Testament. His reflections complement and expand the intimate connection between creation and redemption. The echo of truth found in God’s word by Methodist and Catholic is so wonderfully amplified!

The dialogue’s report cites many sources from both Churches’ writings: the Church Fathers (e.g., St. Ambrose); and Pope Benedict XVI (“… [who] has called for a renewal in our understanding of the ‘indissoluble bond’ between the doctrines of creation and redemption”).

It continues: “… on the Methodist side, there is a natural connection to be drawn from John Wesley’s theology of Eucharist and creation. The Eucharist is ‘the grand channel’ of God’s grace to humankind. And humankind is called to be ‘channels of conveyance’ of God’s blessings to the created world.”

Both Churches agree that there is a sacramentality about creation. Matter does matter, for the things of the world—living and inanimate—reveal that God is with us. To contemplate creation, to appreciate its beauty and size, is to contemplate the wonder of God’s love and care.

Creation, they agree, has been redeemed in Christ. That redemption and the beginnings of the “new heavens and new Earth” are clearly celebrated in praise and thanksgiving each time believers gather to hear the word and bring forth the “bread of life and the cup of salvation.”

The Spirit is working in our midst through ecumenical dialogues. These dialogues are to the benefit of all who believe in Christ, whose wish was “that all may be one.” I hope and pray that the dialogue between the Catholic and Methodist Churches will continue to flourish in that Spirit.
 

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at rginther@saintpat.org)

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