INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC-PENTECOSTAL DIALOGUE
CATHOLICS AND PENTECOSTALS: WORSHIP/PRAYER AND CHRISTIAN LIFE
Ghana, 12-18 July 2023
The third session of the seventh phase of the Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue took place in the Pentecost Convention Centre, in Millennium City (Gomoa Fetteh near Kasoa), Ghana, from 12 to 18 July 2023. Participants in the Dialogue include Catholics appointed by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity [DPCU], and Pentecostals appointed by some Classical Pentecostal churches affiliated with the Pentecostal World Fellowship [PWF].
The general theme of the current phase, which started in 2018, is “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of prayer is the law of faith”). After reflecting on the general topic and discussing “Kerygma/Preaching and Christian Life” (2022), the third session was dedicated to “Worship/Prayer and Christian Life”. The goal of the Dialogue, started in 1972, is to promote mutual respect and understanding in matters of faith and practice. Genuine exchange and frank discussion concerning the positions and practices of the two traditions have been the guiding principles of this bilateral theological dialogue.
Meeting for the first time in Africa, the Dialogue benefitted from local contacts, exchanges and visits. On Friday 14 July, the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, the Most Reverend Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle met, prayed and had a vibrant exchange with the participants. On Sunday 16 July, the Dialogue attended a church service at the Pentecost International Worship Centre Atomic-Accra. The members of the Dialogue were hosted by local pastor, Rev. Anthony Mensah and welcomed by the General Secretary of the Church of Pentecost, Rev. Alexander Kumi-Larbi. The participants had a deeply meaningful guided tour to Elmina Castle, 17 July, with its testimony to the Atlantic slave trade, which provided an opportunity to learn about a very painful chapter of human history in which Christians were complicit. Participants acknowledge with gratitude the cordial and fraternal assistance provided by many members of the Church of Pentecost, chaired by Apostle Eric Kwabena Nyamekye, which hosted us in Ghana.
During the third session, Catholics presented a paper entitled “Catholic Worship, Prayers and Liturgy”, prepared by Rev. Dr Paschal C. Mbagwu. The Pentecostal paper, entitled “Worship and Prayer: A Pentecostal Perspective”, was prepared by Rev. Prof. Jacqueline N. Grey. Morning and evening prayers each day were led alternately by Catholics and Pentecostals.
Co-Chairs of the Dialogue are the Most Reverend Joseph Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA and Rev. Prof. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr, Professor of Church History and Ecumenics, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA (Assemblies of God). They were assisted by Rev. David Wells, Chair of the PWF Christian Unity Commission, as well as by Rev. David Cole, Liaison to the Greater Christian Community for the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, and by Msgr Juan Usma Gómez, DPCU, who served as co-secretaries.
According to Bishop Bambera: “Pope Francis’ message for the 50th anniversary of the Dialogue (Rome 2022), has resonated throughout this week: ‘One thing is certain. Unity is not chiefly the result of our activity, but a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in the journeying.’ The Dialogue’s meeting in Ghana, recognizing the global nature of the work of Christian unity and highlighting the depth of Christian faith of the African continent, has been a powerful reminder to us all of the challenges and blessings of the work before us. The path of unity, as Pope Francis reminds us, is not the path of proselytism or uniformity. It lies in journeying together. The path of unity most clearly emerges when each of us continues to grow in our mutual respect for one another, as is so evidenced in our Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue.”
Prof. Robeck noted, “By bringing the dialogue to Accra, Ghana this year, we have taken it to the global South, where the majority of Christians now live. This move enabled the delegates to participate in a vital Pentecostal worship service together among these growing churches. It also enabled us to hear something of the slave trade that ravaged the African continent. In the midst of all these things, the Church of Pentecost Convention Centre offered gracious hospitality on its beautiful campus in Millennium City. Rev Opoku Onyinah, immediate past Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, continues to be an active member of our dialogue. ”
The members from the Classical Pentecostal churches are: Rev. Prof. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA (Assemblies of God), Co-Chair; Rev. Prof. David Cole, The King’s University, Southlake, Texas, USA (Open Bible Churches), Co-Secretary; Rev. Dr Marcia Clarke, Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, California, USA and London School of Theology, UK (Church of God); Rev. Prof. Dale M. Coulter, Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Cleveland, Tennessee, USA (Church of God); Rev. Prof. Jacqueline N. Grey, Alphacrucis University College, Sydney, Australia (Australian Christian Churches); Rev. Pedro Manuel López Castillo, Pentecost Fraternity (Assemblies of God of Peru); Rev. Prof. Opoku Onyinah, Pentecost University, Ghana (Former Chairman, Church of Pentecost); Rev. David Wells, Pentecostal World Fellowship, (General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada); and Rev. Prof. S. David Moore, The King’s University, Southlake, Texas, USA (International Church of the Foursquare Gospel), unable to attend.
The members from the Catholic Church are: Bishop Joseph Bambera, Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, Co-Chair; Msgr. Juan Usma Gómez, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City/Colombia, Co-Secretary; Prof. Mary Healy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, USA; Rev. Prof. Lawrence Iwuamadi, Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland/Nigeria; Sr. Prof. Maria Ha Fong Ko FMA, Pontifical Faculty Auxilium, Rome, Italy and Holy Spirit Seminary, Hong Kong, China; Rev. Prof. Marcial Maçaneiro SCJ, Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil; and Dr. Teresa Francesca Rossi, Associate Director, Centro Pro Unione and Professor, Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy,. Rev. Dr Paschal C. Mbagwu was the author of the Catholic paper.