Torhout, Belgium, June 25-July 1, 2004


The seventh year of the fifth phase of the International Dialogue between Pentecostal churches and leaders and the Catholic Church was held at the Diocesan Center in Torhout, Belgium, June 25-JuIy 1, 2004. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and some Pentecostal churches and leaders.

This dialogue, which began in 1972, has as its purpose the fostering of greater mutual understanding. It provides opportunity for the delegates to state their positions, evaluate them, and eliminate prejudice and misunderstanding. The dialogue does not aim at organic unity. By drawing upon both biblical and patristic insights, this phase of dialogue has had as its specific goal, a better understanding of how one becomes a Christian and how that person becomes a fully participating member of the Church.

Throughout the dialogue, both Pentecostals and Catholics have cited the Scriptures and in many cases they have drawn from the key theologians of the early Church, the Church Fathers, to describe their respective understandings of the Christian Faith. One of the specific aims of the current phase of dialogue has been to explore what this post-biblical material might say to these churches and to probe how these traditions might agree or differ concerning its authority or value for us today.

Catholic teaching is rooted in the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures and understood through Tradition which includes the Patristic writings. Because of their proximity to the Apostolic period, the Fathers are in a position to see how the teachings of Christ and the Apostles were handed on authentically by the early Church. Pentecostals have traditionally drawn their teachings from the Bible. While Pentecostals may honor these Fathers as important for the Church because of their early leadership roles in the Church, they do not grant them normative authority for the Church today. The teams have agreed that all Christians may gain a great deal from studying the Patristic texts. They tell us what problems the early Church had to face, and how these Fathers worked to resolve them. They also tell us much about how the early Church formed new believers in the process called catechumenate.

The current phase of dialogue, beginning in 1998, has studied the topics of "Christian Initiation and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit," "Faith and Christian Initiation," "Conversion and Christian Initiation," "Christian Experience in Community," and "Christian Formation and Discipleship". In its meeting at Torhout, the dialogue has worked on a draft of its final report to be published in the future.

During the week, members of the team worked and worshipped together. On Sunday morning, the teams were the guests of the Benedictine Abbey Sint Andries (Zevenkerken). Following the service they were greeted by Abbot Paul Standaert. On Tuesday, June 29, they received a historical tour of the nearby city of Brugge and met with the local Catholic bishop the Right Rev. Roger Vangheluwe. The commission was aided by Fr. Henk Landon, Chairman of the Ecumenical Commission of the Diocese of Bruges, and by other local ecumenical partners.

Co-chairs of the Dialogue were Rev. Cecil M. Robeck Jr. (Assemblies of God, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA) and Msgr. John Radano (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City USA).

Delegates from the Classical Pentecostal churches included: Rev. David Cole (Open Bible Churches, Eugene Bible College. Eugene, OR, USA), Rev. Clayton Endecott (General Presbyter for Europe and the Middle East in the Church of God of Prophecy, Germany), Rev. François Moller (Apostolic Faith Mission, Aukland Park Theological Seminary, Petervale, Sandton, South Africa); Rev. Steve Overman (International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Eugene, OR, USA); Rev. Huibert Zegwaart (Verenigde Pinkster - en Evangeliegemeenten, Azusa Theological Seminary, Amsterdam, The Netherlands); and Rev. Stephen Parker (Church of God of Prophecy, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, USA).

Delegates from the Catholic team included: Dr Ralph Del Colle (Marquette Unìversity, Milwaukee, WI, USA); Mr. Hans Gasper (German Bishops' Conference, Bonn, Germany); Rev. William Henn, O.F.M. Cap (Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome/USA); Sr. Maria Ko, F.M.A. (Holy Spirit Seminary; Hong Kong, China); Rev. Patrick Lyons, O.S.B. (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland); Rev. Luis Ramos, O.P (Centro de Estudios Filosόficos Tomás de Aquino, Mexico); and Msgr. Juan Usma Gόmez, (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City/Columbia), who serves as Secretary to the Dialogue.


[Information Service 116 (2004/III) 135-136]