Schloss Craheim, Germany, June 10-14, 1974


A spirit of mutual understanding and a frank statement of doctrinal positions characterised the third meeting of the dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and some Pentecostal Churches and members of charismatic renewal movements from Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed and Baptist Churches. The relation of the action of the Holy Spirit to church structures and questions of baptism were the chief topics. The meeting was held at the Ecumenical Academy, Schloss Craheim, near Wetzhausen, Germany, June 10-14, 1974.

Developing directions taken at previous meetings, papers were presented on the charismatic and sacramental understanding of the Church by Dr. H. Mühlen, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Paderborn, Germany, and Rev. Michael Harper, Director of the Fountain Trust, England, on the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, its structure, worship and sacraments. The place of initiation, baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist in Christian life and confirmation and its relation to the charismatic gifts were among the subjects discussed. Stress was laid on the personal element in Christian faith and on the place of religious experience. Differences of theological emphasis became manifest in discussing the relation of these to the sacramental life as understood by the Catholic Church and some other Churches. The communitarian character of Pentecostal charismatic renewal experiences was described. All participants agreed on the need of teaching to develop and encourage all spiritual experience. Evidence was offered of how the dialogue meetings have brought about mutual enrichment of participants in terms of spiritual insights and deepened understanding of values in each others traditions particularly as these affect worship.

A major theme of the meeting was water baptism and the questions of adult and infant baptism. Dr. John McTernan, President of the International Evangelical Church, Rome, Italy, and co-secretary for the dialogue, presented a paper setting out a classical Pentecostal position and affirming the necessity of baptism by immersion of the adult believer, and the adherence of the Pentecostal to nothing beyond the biblical teaching and practice. Canon J. Giblet, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Louvain, Belgium, treated the place and significance of adult baptism in the early church, while illustrating the biblical and traditional indications that are the basis for the acceptance of infant baptism by the great majority of the Churches, and the way in which this is conditioned by the life of the Church through the centuries.

The ensuing discussion touched on fundamental questions such as the correct conditions for a right understanding of the Bible texts, the role of tradition, and the relation between faith and experience, the meaning of a sacrament, the relation of word and sacraments. Fundamental to much of the discussion was the relation between the action of God and the human response in the sacramental life of the Church and the life of the individual Christian.

Agreement was evident in acknowledging the place and values of adult baptism by immersion as described in the New Testament and practised from the age of the apostles. While Penteostal participants hold this established an unchanging norm, Roman Catholic participants and some of those from other Churches believe the biblical account is describing the missionary situation of the first age of the Church which did not exclude the baptism of infants. It was felt that Christians could work together to promote sound pastoral practice in Christian initiation and there was a concern to find a true and worthy solution for pastoral problems concerning baptism which can arise when members of traditional Churches become involved in Pentecostal movements.

The following also participated in the meeting:

Dr. David Du Plessis, International Pentecostal Leader, California, U.S.A., and Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, President of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, U.S.A. (Co-Chair men), Dr. Balthasar Fischer, Professor of Liturgy, Theological Faculty, Trier, Germany, Rev. Justus Du Plessis, General Secretary, Apostolic Faith Mission, Republic of South Africa, Rev. Arnold Bittlinger, Director of the Ecumenical Academy, Schloss Craheim, Germany, Dr. Pierre Duprey, Under-Secretary, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome, Italy, Dr. J. Rodman Williams, President, Melodyland School of Theology, California, U.S.A., Dr. Francis Whiting, one of the Pastors of the First Baptist Church of Salem, New Hampshire, U.S.A., Dr. Leonard Lovett, President of Mason Theology Seminary, The Church of God in Christ, Atlanta Georgia, U.S.A., Dr. Russell Spittler, Dean, Southern California College, Assemblies of God, U.S.A., Father Simon Tugwell, O.P. Lecturer in Theology, Blackfriars, Oxford, England, Rev. Basil Meeking, Staff Member, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome, Italy (co-secretary for the dialogue).


[Information Service 25 (1974/III) 20-21]