John A. Radano*


This report of the tenth phase of international Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue is beautifully and logically arranged. It begins with a passage from Scripture and ends with another, the two of which, taken together, help show the broad perspective of the theme, namely, that God calls both individuals and the community to holiness. At the beginning, before the Introduction Luke 19: 1-10, the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus is presented as "a story of divine grace and the call to holiness" for an individual. Zacchaeus "has been drawn into a saving relationship with Jesus" (first para).[1] The story shows "the drama of divine grace at work and its powerful salvific effect" on an individual (second para). At the end of the report, Ephesians 1:1-10 is cited. Here St Paul "reflects on the themes of grace and holiness in relation to the broad sweep of salvation history. By grace, God has made it possible for humankind to attain salvation. From the foundation of the world, God elected a people, in Christ, to be ‘holy and blameless before him in love’ "(first para). Election in Christ here is collective rather than individual: "God eternally chose a people in Christ (that is, the Church), to be holy and blameless before him at the final judgment and so enter into the full blessings of the age to come" (third para).


Theme and Focus

The theme of holiness has, of course, deep roots in the life of both communities. For Catholics this idea echoes the teaching of Vatican II concerning ‘The Universal Call to holiness in the Church’ (LG , chapt 5). For Methodists, it is consistent with the historical mission of Methodism "to spread scriptural holiness over the land" (n.2). In treating holiness, this dialogue comes back to an issue which has long been one of its key concerns. The report of the second phase of this dialogue could already say in 1976 that "It has been recognized from the beginning of our dialogue that among the ‘more solid grounds for affinity’ between our two traditions the first was ‘the central place held in most traditions by the ideal of personal sanctification, growth in holiness through daily life in Christ."[2]

As to focus, The Call to Holiness, considers how Catholics and Methodists understand the nature and effect of divine grace upon the human person and the implications for the Christian life. In so doing, "it investigates grace and holiness not simply as theological concepts, but in relation to their central place in the Christian life. For the God of grace calls people to holy living in a relationship of communion or fellowship (koinonia) with the Holy Trinity and with one another" (n. 4).

An engaging characteristic of this presentation, and found throughout, is that of the Church on pilgrimage. "The life of holiness for the Christian is fundamentally a walking with the risen Christ" (n. 93). "The holiness of the Church is that of a people on the road, on pilgrimage, and so has the quality of both a present reality through the presence of the risen Jesus, who walks with us, and of a promise of holiness towards which disciples travel, step by step" (n. 96). "The idea of the pilgrim journey lies at the heart of all aspects of the Church and Christian life" (n. 100). In discussing Holy Dying in Chapter Three, the text says: "Holy living comes to its natural conclusion in death as the end of the pilgrim journey on earth" (n.132). Discussion of "The Saints Above" in Chapter Four, begins with "As friends and followers of Christ, Christians journey together as pilgrims towards the promise of eternal life and fellowship with the saints ‘standing before the throne’ (Rev. 7.9)" (n. 139).


Structure of the report

Among the theological foundations of this report, three are "particularly noteworthy." First is the trinitarian mission in salvation history as recorded in scripture and tradition. Second is the Methodist Statement of Association (2006) with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (MAJDDJ2006/1999).[3]Third, the common participation of Christians in the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first and third build on previous work of this dialogue (n.6), and are areas in which there is much fundamental agreement among Christians. The second, MAJDDJ, involves the Methodist reception of a major ecumenical achievement of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, illustrating that this Methodist-Catholic bilateral dialogue has been positively influenced by another bilateral, the Lutheran-Catholic bilateral, and supports the latter’s achievement, making it its own.

The report is divided into three sections, comprising five chapters. The first section, including Chapters One and Two, "outlines a shared Christian anthropology and understanding of the nature and effect of divine grace and holiness in relation to the human person"(n.7). Chapter One, "The Mystery of being Human," articulates a Christian anthropology as the theological basis for the chapters that follow. It considers the creation of the human being in the image and likeness of God, the effects of the fall on humankind and creation, the longing for reconciliation, and the person of Jesus Christ as the full measure of human being (n.8). Chapter Two, "God’s Work of Re-creating Humankind," describes the saving work of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in mediating divine grace, presented in three aspects: the "grace that enables," the "grace that justifies," and the "grace that sanctifies."(n. 9).

The second section, comprising chapters three and four, draws upon the shared understanding of grace and holiness to investigate particular elements of holy living in the communion of saints (n. 7). It explains that "just as Christian anthropology leads to soteriology, consideration of the saving work of Christ is inseparable from ecclesiology, since the experience of grace and holiness is always oriented towards the formation of relationships in the church and the transformation of the world." The communion of saints includes those below, and those above. Chapter Three, "God’s Holy People: the Saints Below," considers the personal and ecclesial effect of grace and what it means to be called by God to holy living in the church and in the world. "The chapter describes the pilgrim Church itself as a household of grace. Holy living is described in relation to the sacraments, witnessing to the Gospel, devotional practices, and service in the world" (n. 10). Since the living and the departed "are joined together in love and praise within the household of grace," Chapter Four, "God’s Holy People: The Saints Above," considers the eschatological effect of grace, and what this means for a communion among the saints which transcends death. This chapter explores related topics such as death and the hope of resurrection, judgement, purification and growth in grace beyond death, prayer for departed saints, the intercession of departed saints and Mary, the Lord’s return, images of final salvation, and the fulfillment of God’s design and purpose for humankind in a new heaven and a new earth (n. 11).

The third section includes chapter five, which offers a summary of the report’s convergences and divergences, and asks how the fruits of dialogue might have a transformative effect in Methodist and Catholic communities (n. 7). Chapter Five, "Growing in Holiness Together: Openings for common Witness, Devotion and Service," reflects upon the close relationship between holiness and unity. "The work of reconciliation between our world communions is itself a Spirit-led response to the summons of holiness" (n. 12).


The call to holiness and the quest for unity

An important characteristic of this text is that it clearly relates holiness to Christian unity. At the start it affirms that "The call to holiness is also a call to unity in the church, the body of Christ. Jesus prayed for his disciples to be sanctified in the truth that they might all be one (Jn 17.17, 21). Holiness and Christian unity belong together as twin aspects of the same relationship with the Trinity such that the pursuit of either involves the pursuit of the other"(n.5).

Chapter Five continues the reflection on holiness and unity, saying that "the relationship between holiness and unity speaks directly to why our two world communions have entered into dialogue in the first place, and why the present topic has been addressed." Like Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus encountering Christ, Methodists and Catholics together "are traveling on the same road, seeking faithfully to follow the same Lord, desiring to be led by the same Spirit, and yearning to find our identity as children of the same father. The triune God who calls us to holiness also calls us to unity" (n. 168).

Reflection on this theme gives the opportunity to indicate some of the successful results of the dialogue in seeking unity. In ten rounds of dialogue we "have repeatedly reached more convergences than were anticipated. The consensus between Catholics and Methodists concerning the Trinitarian and Christological foundations of faith, and convergence on many other aspects…" is a cause for rejoicing (n. 169). In the current round we "have found common ground in our understanding of the human person, created by and for God; in our understanding of divine grace at work, enabling, justifying, and sanctifying stumbling human beings, and creating sons and daughters of God capable of witnessing to and sharing in God’s saving work for the world; in the ways in which human beings are called to live holy lives in the Church and in the world, and in a shared hope for life with God after death"(n. 170).

But they admit, as well, that there are also continuing differences which keep them from being in full communion, and where further work is necessary (n. 170). While the goal of this dialogue remains full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life (n. 171), the dialogue has brought Methodists and Catholics to a stage of seeing their churches "in a relationship of real but incomplete or imperfect communion"(n. 172). But, besides the continuing differences which need to be resolved, there are obstacles which this dialogue, like other dialogues, has towards moving towards full communion, such as the following. The reports are not well known among Methodists and Catholics, and therefore consensus and convergence registered by these dialogue texts have not had the transformative effect on our relations for which they had hoped. The insights achieved by dialogue need to be received in order to foster that effect (n. 173). Furthermore, the relations between Methodists and Catholics differ greatly in different parts of the world. In some places they are cordial, in others, marked by suspicion. The Commission, however, out of the experience of dialogue and encounter with one another, is convinced that those relations could be strengthened in every part of the world (n. 174). Also, when churches have acted separately for so long, there is resistance to getting them to act together in shared witness and mission (n. 175). Despite these obstacles, "readers are invited to ponder the relationship between holiness and unity, and to make a connection between the pursuit of holiness and the taking of steps toward reconciliation between our two communions based on our shared understanding of what binds us together"(n.176). "To engage in this work of reconciliation is an intrinsic part of the path to holiness willed by the all holy God. Indeed it is the holy Spirit who is leading us on this journey, it is the Risen Lord who is accompanying us as we walk together"(n.178).


Overview of the Report

While this report presents many agreements and convergences, the report shows also divergences, differences and open questions.

Chapter One, "The Mystery of Being Human: Created by God and Re-created in Christ for being in communion with God", articulates an agreed Christian Anthropology. Humanity is created in the image of God and for relationship with God, with others, and with creation. Human beings, constituted with body and soul, were also constituted with the freedom to accept communion with God or not. The failure of freedom resulted in the "original fault freely committed by the first parents of the human species" (n. 27). "As a result of that first sin, the world is marred by sin" (n. 28). There is estrangement from God, and the reality of sin which divine revelation discloses, resonates with human experience.

Nonetheless, God did not abandon human beings after the fall, and God’s love for fallen creatures is made concrete in salvation history. The incarnation of the eternal Word and the sending of the Holy Spirit overcome the human estrangement from God, creation, and self, suffered in the fall. Christ, the New Adam, fully reveals the mystery of the human being. "Together, the mystery of creation and the mystery of redemption are the proper foundation for a true understanding of humanity"(n.35).

Being re-created in the image of Christ has an eschatological orientation. The drama of human existence unfolds in history between the creation and its final consummation. "The full meaning of humanity’s present existential situation can be found only in Christ who gives the image of God in the human its true and definitive form" (39). "In Christ, human existence receives a new and deeper meaning: the whole creation is restored" (41).

This chapter is presented as a shared account of humankind created in the image of God. At no point does it signal significant differences between Methodists and Catholics.

Chapter Two, "God’s Work of Re-creating Humankind," is considered in light of the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. A brief summary is first given of the grace of God in the person and work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, followed by an exploration of the nature and effect of divine grace in its personal and corporate aspects. It concludes by

investigating two issues which have been contentious between Catholics and Protestants: the merit accruing from good works of mercy and piety, and whether it is appropriate to speak of an ‘assurance of salvation.’

Commenting first on "the Grace of God in Jesus Christ" the report states that Catholics and Methodists describe grace in similar terms, as a favour, a free gift of God’s help so that we can respond to his call to become children of God. "God’s grace is not an abstract idea but is saving love revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ…"(n.46). The work of Christ "leads to the fulfilment of God’s purpose for the whole created order and not just for humankind" (n. 48). Scripture shows, too, how the Holy Spirit is constantly present and active in the person and work of Jesus Christ (n.49) and is present and active in the Church throughout the ages (n. 51). "The Holy Spirit is ‘the spirit of grace’ (Heb 10:29), who makes the grace of Christ present and active, drawing people into a deepening relationship or fellowship with God and with one another" (n.51). The diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit are always a gift of grace in one form or another, meant for the common good of the Church. While it is not the purpose of this report to develop a common ecclesiology, given what is said about the Holy Spirit in ns. 49-51, the report could have easily added a sentence at the end of those numbers saying that the Church is indeed the Body of Christ (n. 64) and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Grace is described according to three characteristics: grace which enables, grace which justifies, and grace which sanctifies. As to grace that enables, Catholics and Methodists ‘Confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation’(JDDJ, 19). Enabling grace means that It is only by God’s grace that human beings have the capacity to respond to salvation offered us through Jesus Christ (n.54). At the same time, it does not remove the need for a free human response to God’s initiative in salvation. "Catholics and Methodists reject the idea of universal salvation where this is interpreted as meaning that all will be saved whether or not they freely consent (n.55).

Discussion of the grace that justifies helps recall that one of the major controversies of the Reformation concerned the doctrine of justification. The Lutheran-Catholic (1999) Methodist (2006) Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which resolved this conflict is the basis for this treatment, and is cited several times. It cites the heart of the JDDJ (15): "By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works" (n.59). The grace of justification re-creates the human person, though not necessarily in a permanent state of being. While it always remains possible for the justified to depart from grace, even then, the grace of God Makes it possible to repent afresh and receive the grace that justifies (n.63).

The grace that sanctifies involves a process of sanctification, or being made holy through a deepening relationship with Christ in his body, the Church (n.64). Sanctifying grace is not only interior to the human soul, but also involves a commitment to holy living in every sphere of human life. Citing JDDJ 37, Catholics and Methodists confess together that good works of mercy and piety are the fruit of justification and an obligation of Holy living. As such they belong to God’s victory over sin and death. Holy living itself leads to growth in sanctifying grace (n. 65).

These three features of grace are aspects of God’s saving love and call to holiness (n. 68). As God’s chosen agent and instrument of the call to holiness, the Church on earth is essentially missionary, oriented towards the transformation of all things into the new creation in Christ (n. 72). Christians are called to perfection in love and holiness. While absolute perfection belongs to God alone, Catholics and Methodists agree together that ‘sanctification 6

is a process that leads to perfect love’ (Honolulu 18) as Christians grow in grace and devote themselves to the love of God and neighbor. They have different approaches in speaking about Christian perfection, but basic agreement. In light of what is said in ns. 73-77, the first phrase in n. 75 ("although Catholic theology generally does not refer to Christian perfection or entire sanctification as such") could have been left out to avoid misunderstanding.

A point of difference is introduced here. While both can say that being brought into a final state of perfection in love and holiness is the work of grace, they have traditionally differed on the way this final state of perfection has been attained. For Catholics it is by a post-death experience of purification traditionally called purgatory. While Methodists take seriously those passages in scripture that suggest a process of purification from the effects of sin, they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of purgatory as it was understood and rejected by the Reformers (n.77). This difference will be taken up further in Chapter Four.

This leads to another area which has been controversial between Catholics and Protestants since the Reformation, namely, the question of good works and merit. But JDDJ (15) has brought reconciliation on this point. Good works of mercy and piety in the Christian life do not contribute to justification but are its fruit. But a continuing difference between Catholics and Methodists "concerns the possibility that the merit arising from the good works of Christians might aid the sanctification of others." Both explain their positions on this. The Catholic explanation includes a discussion of indulgences (n.83). Some convergence is registered since, in a certain sense, "Methodists accept that good works of piety may benefit particular individuals" (n.85), and also since "some Methodists would further accept that the prayers of departed saints and the prayers of the saints on earth may also be mutually beneficial, albeit in ways that cannot be identified precisely in terms of their salvific effect"(n.86). Moreover, further theological reflection on the implications of the bonds of love within the communion of saints "may lead to greater convergence between Catholics and Methodists concerning the possibility of an ‘exchange’ whereby the holiness of one benefits others" (n.86).

Chapter Two ends by discussing the "Assurance of faith and Salvation." Again referring to the JDDJ (34), the report finds that the different ways that they have of speaking about an "assurance of salvation" are differences of emphasis "and does not constitute a substantial disagreement between Catholics and Methodists in understanding the nature of Christian assurance" (n.90). In order to avoid misunderstanding, the first sentence in N. 91 "For Catholics, to have faith is to trust in God," might be expanded slightly to say, "For Catholics, one very significant aspect of having faith in God, is trusting in him."

Having dealt, first, with creation, and then with redemption, the report turns then to holiness and the Church, with Chapter Three, "God’s Holy People: The Saints Below." Exploring first, the Church as "a Holy People," it describes the church on pilgrimage. "The holiness of the Church is that of a people on the road, on pilgrimage, and so has the quality of both a present reality through the presence of the risen Christ, who walks with us, and of a promise of holiness towards which disciples travel, step by step" (n.96). Immediately, the question of sin is raised. "The Church on its pilgrim way is still possessed of the sins and failings of its members, yet unmistakably oriented towards its future fulfilment in God" (n.96). The idea of the pilgrim journey lies at the heart of all aspects of the Church and Christian life (n.100)

This eschatological orientation of ecclesial life is the context in which some historically divisive issues are taken up, such as whether the church itself is sinful. Catholics emphasize "that the Church as an eschatologically present reality in the world is without sin, even though its individual members may be sinful" (n.97). Methodists affirm the holiness of the church, but "emphasize that ecclesial structures can themselves be affected by sin. The Methodist reluctance to claim that the Church is sinless reflects a sensitivity to the risks in such a proposition, which can lead to a failure to repent and reform when sin occurs in the church. Holiness can never simply be reduced to a possession or an unquestioned characteristic of the Church, but must always be understood as God’s action and free gift "(n.98). While these contrasting emphases are not mutually exclusive, they have implications for the way Methodists and Catholics respectively speak of the Church, its institutional forms and limitations of authoritative discernment. The implications are significant and underlie many persisting differences and divisions among Christians, especially the relationship between the Church ‘visible’ (its historical, institutional reality) and ‘invisible’ (its spiritual reality in Christ) (n.99).

It is important that Methodists and Catholics can say together that the Church is a means of grace, "a sacramental and missionary means of grace for the world"(n.104). This statement is followed by sections which explore the ecclesial practices of the church which nurture the holy living and mission of God’s pilgrim people. These include celebration of sacraments, shared thinking around practices of social justice, ethics, personal and public devotions, approaches to dying and death as the end of the Christian’s pilgrimage on earth (n.104).

The Church is described as the household of grace (ns.101,105-115). "In the Church, Christians meet Christ in ways consistent with our human existence as embodied and social beings." In this light the report discusses "The Household of Grace: Holy Living and the Sacraments" (ns.105-115). The economy of salvation is sacramental in nature; God uses particular sensory experiences (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) in order to mediate grace assuredly….Liturgies and worship practices, and especially the sacraments and preaching, are public ecclesial ways of nurturing holy living in the world. The discussion of sacraments that follows shows the importance of sacraments for holiness. There are many agreements, e.g. regarding baptism, many convergences but also differences of belief, between Methodists and Catholics especially regarding the Lord’s supper/eucharist, how we understand the sacraments of initiation, the number of sacraments. One difference which should be mentioned here concerns the relationship of the eucharist to sacramental ordination, especially in light of the fact that Catholics and Methodists differ in their understanding of the number of sacraments.

Besides sacraments there are many other practices of holiness in the world which are constituent of holy living including the reading and study of scripture (ns.116-118), traditions of witness to the Gospel through active engagement with the world in service with God’s reign (n.121), which are deeply rooted in the practice of prayer (122).

Here again, between Methodists and Catholics there are areas of unease and difference, areas for continuing dialogue (n.123). Methodists are concerned with a number of devotional practices in Catholic life because of which, in their view, the centrality of the person and work of Jesus Christ is in danger of being obscured, or the gospel is in danger of being compromised by superstition (n.123). One should say that when strong words such as superstition are used, it would be helpful if specific examples were given to clarify Methodist concerns. As serious as these concerns are, and as strong as the language is, as the report shows, new insights in both communities can foster convergences (ns.127-129). This is true also when concerns about Marian devotions, and about purgatory are expressed. Regarding Mary, both Catholics and Methodists together recognize, on the basis of Scripture, the unique role of Mary as Jesus’ Mother and God-bearer (Theotokos). Catholics, different from Methodists, have a significant tradition of devotions relating to the Mother of our Lord. "For Catholics, authentic Marian devotion draws the Christian into a closer relationship with God’s incarnation and humanity in Jesus through the mystery of Mary’s motherhood by the power of the Spirit" (n.128). The Catholic practice of the veneration of relics is based on a long and meaningful tradition, but it causes concern for many Methodists (ns.130-131).

In n. 130, while catholic practice of the veneration of relics "causes concerns for many Methodists", what follows in 130-131 is an adequate Catholic explanation of this practice, and a mutual challenge of each to the other on this matter. Later, In ns. 152-153, regarding Purgatory, while it is noted that the reformers rejected this teaching as merely speculative, as did John Wesley, Methodists "have been circumspect in their teaching" about the transition that takes place, and have differences regarding it. However, in 153, Catholics suggest that Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical The Hope That Saves offers possibilities for developing an ecumenical understanding of purification after death.

Chapter Three ends with a brief consideration of "Holy Dying", the end of the pilgrim journey on earth. "Catholics and Methodists believe that holy dying is part of holy living, and that the people of God witness to the Gospel in the manner of their dying."(n.132)

Chapter Four, "God’s Holy People: the Saints Above", focusing on the saints in heaven, explores the transition of the Christian from death to eternal life, and to the final consummation of all things in Christ at the end of time (n.138). This discussion, too, is offered as another component of the pilgrimage, the walking with Christ, in which Christians participate (n.139). Since the Gospels contain references to the final judgement, one question which is raised concerns what happens between a person’s death, and the final judgement and general resurrection. "Is there an intermediate state?" Catholics and Methodists profess together the ecumenical creeds which affirm the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. "And yet there are differences in theological understanding between our communions, some of which stem from Reformation controversies." (n.141).

In this chapter Methodists and Catholics affirm much together. They start by affirming that all the baptized, living and dead, make up the communion of saints (n.142). An important ecumenical observation is made, that among those who have died are some, both Methodists and Catholics, who gave their lives for Christ, showing that ‘This cloud of witnesses’ transcends ecclesiastical divisions (n.142). Both traditions attribute a positive meaning to death, since physical death completes the dying with Christ that begins at baptism and anticipates the fulfillment of the promise of resurrection (n.144). Methodists and Catholics believe that God’s particular judgement at the point of death determines a person’s final destiny. (n.150).

A significant difference between Methodists and Catholics relates to the question of "an intermediate state." How is unqualified holiness conferred upon those who have died without having attained it. The difference focuses on the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, an intermediate state in which the deceased person is purged of sin and made perfect in holiness through the cleansing effect of God’s grace. Like the Reformers, Wesley rejected the doctrine as merely speculative and liable to misuse (n.152). As already mentioned, Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, The Hope that Saves, refined Catholic teaching on the doctrine of Purgatory, and provides a basis for further discussion on this matter (n.153).

Another difference, related to this, concerns "Prayer for the Departed." Catholics continue to pray for those still being purified (n.154), but in rejecting purgatory, the Reformers also rejected this practice, as have Methodists. But today a number of liturgical developments among Methodists, indicate that they may increasingly be open to the practice of prayer for the departed (n.155). Still another difference concerns the intercession of saints. For Catholics, the saints are intercessors because of the bonds of love that exist between all the members of the church and Christ (n.157). Methodists have been generally resistant to the invocation of saints lest the absolute uniqueness of Christ as sole mediator be compromised (n.158).

In regard to reflection on Mary, there are convergences in that Methodists and Catholics affirm the unique role of Mary in salvation history as recorded in scripture, notably her grace-filled response to God’s invitation to carry the incarnate Word in her womb, and her exemplary discipleship, urging others also to heed the call to holiness (John 2.5) (n.163). However Methodists and other Protestants have reservations about the scriptural foundations of the dogma of the Assumption (n.160). On the other hand, Methodists can affirm the core intention of that dogma "to bear witness to God’s saving work in Christ and the final consummation of holy living. By grace, Mary was made perfect in love and holiness through her close relationship with her son. From a Methodist perspective, Mary’s life is readily seen to manifest Christian perfection or entire sanctification. Thus her ‘falling asleep’ anticipates and testifies to the glorious future of all God’s children made possible through the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ"(n.163). Catholics and Methodists differ, however, "regarding what the spiritual and pastoral implications of Mary’s unique place within the communion of saints holds for the saints below." Catholics regard the intercession of Mary as particularly effective because she is ‘Mother of God.’ Methodists find no reason to seek the intercession of Mary (or any other departed saint), for all are equally dependent upon Christ for their redemption. Further discussion may lead to greater convergence on these matters (n.164).

Finally, united with the saints above, the saints below await the return of the Lord as dramatically portrayed in the scriptures, which will bring salvation history to its close. The mission and the ministry of the Church will finally be fulfilled when all things are restored in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit (n. 167).Catholics and Methodists "believe heaven to be the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme happiness and bliss" (n.165). Both believe that the immortal soul will live on after death and the ‘mortal body’ will also experience resurrection." Since Christ assumed all that is human, all that is human will be redeemed"(n.166).

Chapter Five summarizes Catholic and Methodist agreements found in previous chapters, in the form of "creedal statements," noting also divergences which have been registered. It is hoped that this will assist discussion of these results in parishes and congregations.

Important is the affirmation, which is correct, made in n. 186, summarizing especially ns. 109-110, that "the two principle rites of vocation for adults--marriage and orders—give grace to the individual or couple, so that the wider community might grow in grace". This is followed by the statement "that there is no hierarchy to the various states of Christian life, and all can be avenues to, and expressions of holiness." But from a Catholic perspective, more must be said on this matter to prevent misunderstanding. Thus, as reflected in n. 110, Catholic teaching shows that "from the very beginning of the church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes….Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model…."(Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] (1618). "Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away" (CCC 1619).

"Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other." (CCC 1620). According to Lumen gentium 42, the holiness of the Church is also "fostered in a special way" by the observance of the "manifold counsels proposed in the gospel by our Lord to his disciples. Outstanding among them is that precious gift of divine grace which the Father gives to some men…so that by virginity, or celibacy, they can more easily devote their entire lives to God alone with undivided heart. This total continence embraced on behalf of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in particular honor by the church…"

Finally, It can be noted here, as well, that the goal of this dialogue is stated as full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life. (ns. 171, 176, 185). This is a good formulation, perhaps the best formulation of the goal of this dialogue that these two communions can express together at this time. At the same time, in an earlier statement of this international dialogue, the 1986 report Towards a Statement on the Church, the Roman Catholics clearly expressed their Church’s teaching that the Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, foster the unity of the People of God. "In collegial communion with fellow bishops and with the Bishop of Rome, they cement and express the bond of the universal fellowship" (n. 32). Since this is a position with which Methodists apparently do not agree, one might ask in which way this Catholic teaching is accounted for in the formulation of the goal of this dialogue.


Ecumenical Reception

As mentioned above, the lack of reception of insights of dialogue reports into the life of the churches, is one obstacle preventing the churches in dialogue from moving closer to unity. The Call to Holiness contributes to ecumenical reception in two ways. First, by various means, the report itself provides assistance to the reception of its findings into the local churches. Second, in making its theological arguments for its subject matter, it receives again, and utilizes, one of the milestones of the ecumenical movement, the official Lutheran and Catholic (1999) and Methodist (2006) Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which resolved one of the major theological problems of the Reformation.

First, local reception and the pastoral aspect of this report. This report provides In a number of ways pastoral aides to reception of its major concerns. First, after theological elaboration on the subject matter, four of the five chapters conclude by giving a brief account of the llfe of two persons, one Catholic and one Methodist, who have been recognized by the respective communion as living an extraordinary life of holiness. This remarkable feature of the report helps the reader to see holiness in very tangible terms, encouraging the reader to explore his or her capabilities of deepening the quest for holiness. Second, Chapter Five in its second part, does two things which foster discussion of the theological content of the report. One is that It offers a summary, in the form of "creedal statements", based on each of the previous chapters, of what Methodists and Catholics can say together, also noting divergences or differences when these have been registered. The other is that these "creedal statements" are followed by a series of questions for discussion on each chapter in regional or local settings where Methodists and Catholics live side by side. Third, the report provides a very helpful Appendix: "Resources for Prayer and Meditation." These could be used for common ecumenical prayer between Methodists and Catholics during their discussions, or at other times. It provides prayers from both Methodist and Catholic sources, under categories also relating to the themes found in the report. These categories include: (1) Prayers of Self-Offering; (2) Prayers of Gratitude that we have been Saved and Prayers of Desire to Imitate Christ; (3) Prayers for the Saints Below; (4) Prayers concerning the Saints Above; (5) Prayers for Mission. The Appendix reminds us that while ecumenical dialogue is important for discovering agreements on the dimensions of holiness and all that it involves as Christians move on pilgrimage toward unity, prayer which promotes holiness, and prayer for unity, is even more fundamental. If made use of, these resources would be helpful for the reception of the report.

Second, this text receives and utilizes the historic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification The JDDJ stated that "a consensus on basic truths of the the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics (n. 40), thus helping resolve the clashes over this doctrine of justification which were at the heart of Luther’s protest against the Church in the sixteenth century. In 2006, the World Methodist Council officially associated with the JDDJ, joining Lutherans and Catholics in accepting this ecumenical achievement. While The Call to Holiness builds on and receives previous Methodist-Catholic international reports, it also builds on and continues to receive the JDDJ. It does this in several ways.

In its introduction, The Call to Holiness mentions three theological foundations for this report which are particularly noteworthy, one of them being the Methodist Statement of Association with the Joint Declaration (MAJDDJ) (n.6). In addressing the subject of grace in Chapter Two, the MAJDDJ "is an important source of basic agreement between Catholics and Methodists (and Lutherans) concerning theological questions which have divided Catholics and Protestants since the Reformation" (n.44).

As Chapter Two continues, its treatment of "The Grace that Enables", starts by citing JDDJ 19: "Catholics and Methodists ‘confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation.’" But it is especially under the second heading (the grace that justifies) and third heading (the grace that sanctifies) that specific JDDJ wording is used a number of times to articulate aspects of Methodist and Catholic theological agreement.[4]

Under "The Grace that Justifies," in n. 59 the heart of the JDDJ is cited to remind the reader that, while historically there was conflict between Catholics and Protestants concerning justification, today Methodists and Catholics can together confess ‘By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works’ (JDDJ,15). They also cite the Joint Declaration in saying together that "even faith is not a human achievement since ‘faith is itself God’s gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers’ (JDDJ,16)." In n. 60, the JDDJ is cited to show the biblical basis for saying that justification means "liberation from the dominating power of sin and death," that it "unites a sinner with Christ and with his death and resurrection," and that it means "being accepted into a relationship of communion (koinonia) with God already now, but then fully in God’s coming Kingdom"(JDDJ, n. 11). In n. 61, JDDJ 25 is cited in speaking of the relation between faith and good works, namely that good works do not contribute to justification, but they are its inevitable consequence. Faith in the saving action of God in Christ is always and necessarily active in love and thus results in good works of mercy and piety. The point is then made by citing JDDJ 25 that ‘whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification or merits it.’

Still in Chapter Two, in two numbers under "The Grace that Sanctifies" the JDDJ is cited twice as support. First to support the important point in n. 65, that "Sanctifying grace is not only interior to the human soul, but also involves a commitment to holy living in every sphere of human life (cf. Rom 12.1)", it cites JDDJ 37 after saying that "Catholics and Methodists confess together that good works of mercy and piety are the fruit of justification and an obligation of holy living." Then, their assertion, in n. 66, that "Holy living itself leads to growth in sanctifying grace" is supported by JDDJ 38. In discussion on "The Grace that Sanctifies" references are made to MAJDDJ, once in n.66, once in n. 67. The JDDJ is cited to support themes also in other sections of the report.[5]

Thus, in this report, the achievements of this dialogue on holiness are well presented, and the important contributions to reception of dialogue results are well illustrated.



The Call to Holiness makes an important ecumenical contributions in several ways. First by showing the many agreements/convergences Catholics and Methodists share on the matters discussed, it underlines again, and deepens, the real though imperfect communion which they share. The clear explanations of differences help the reader to see where dialogue is still necessary, and the differences are often accompanied with suggestions illustrating the direction which dialogue can take in order to deepen that communion.

Second, the report shows clearly the two areas which every dialogue now should take into account, namely, the continuation of dialogue itself to clarify and resolve issues over which Christians are divided, and second, the various possibilities of reception of dialogue results. Third, It illustrates that among issues over which Christians divided, common views on issues related to holiness and the spiritual life are also important. Fourth, this dialogue’s way of linking holiness to unity is a significant contribution to the ecumenical movement.

On various occasions, Pope John Paul II spoke of ecumenism as a pastoral priority of his ministry, and of the Church. Ecumenical achievements such as reconciliation of Christians on important matters such as justification (the JDDJ), or the milestone Faith and Order text Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), are, of course, vital for ecumenical progress. What they have achieved is also pastoral because they enable divided Christians to recognize one another more easily as brothers and sisters in Christ. Exploring the topic of holiness enabled Methodists and Catholics to explore, together, life in Christ. In a sense this dialogue Itself plunged them into the pastoral life itself. It enabled them to explore that at which Christians always aim when preaching the gospel, administering sacraments, doing catechetical work. That is, to promote and deepen holiness among Christians and others who will hear. It is to promote the holiness, the closeness to God which we gain because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This indeed is a pastoral priority.

With this report the international Methodist- Catholic dialogue has taken another step towards healing the division between their communions. One must congratulate that dialogue for this important contribution, and pray that its consistent work of healing the divisions between us will continue and be successful as well.




* Monsignor John A. Radano is currently an adjunct professor in the School of Theology of Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, USA.

[1]The paragraphs of the brief commentaries on both scripture passages are not numbered.

[2] Dublin Report, 1976, n. 26. Also, "Methodists and Catholics repeatedly discover a notable rapport when they speak of spirituality, the life of the Spirit" (Honolulu Report, 1981, n. 7. "A key point of agreement between Methodists and Roman Catholics is the need for graced, free and active participation in God’s saving work"(Brighton Report, 2001, n.53.)

[3] The 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (=JDDJ). The Methodist Statement of Association (2006) with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (=MAJDDJ).

[4] It is used in three different numbers under "The Grace that Justifies" (in n.59 (twice), n.60 and n.61), and in two numbers under "The Grace that Sanctifies" (n. 65 and n.66). MAJDDJ is referred to twice under "The Grace that Sanctifies" (n. 66 and n. 67).

[5] In Chapter two, under "Good Works and merit," para 79 cites JDDJ 15, and para 80 cites JDDJ 38., and under "The Assurance of Faith and Salvation," para 88 refers to JDDJ 34, para 91 refers to JDDJ 36, and para 92 refers to MAJDDJ n. 4.6.