My dear friend, Brother Jeffrey Gros, the Catholic Studies Scholar in Residence at nearby Lewis University, is one of America’s leading proponents of dialogue and missional-ecumenism between Roman Catholics and evangelicals. Jeff not only knows and understands evangelical Christianity he knows and loves real evangelicals, people like me. I am honored to learn and grow through this deep friendship.
Jeff helps me stay vitally connected to what is happening inside the vast global reality that is the Roman Catholic Church. Jeff is a member of the Christian Brothers Conference and the former Associate Director of the Secretariat on Ecumenism at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2012 Jeff was honored with an award by the Washington Theological Consortium for his significant contribution to ecumenism.
Brother Jeffrey is well-known in the ecumenical movement for broadening the reach of ecumenism. He has written widely in theological journals and periodicals, has edited numerous books on ecumenism, and has spoken on the subject to various religious and educational groups throughout the world. He served for 10 years as Director of Faith and Order for the National Council of Churches, and 14 years at the USCCB. Brother Jeffrey, who holds a Ph.D. in Theology from Fordham University, is currently a professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary. We met at Beeson Divinity School in an ecumenical event hosted by Dr. Timothy George some years ago and have become very close friends since Jeff moved to Chicago in the summer of 2011.
I write about Jeff for several reasons:
1. Jeff has uniquely helped me to understand the Catholic Church and the slow, but deeply rewarding, mission of ecumenism when it is focused on the poor, both spiritually and economically.
2. Jeff is very weak right now, having undergone treatments for cancer. Please pray for him. I long to continue learning from this amazing friend and I pray to God for his life and soul.
3. Jeff shared with me a wonderful link to an important U.S. document just a few days ago . I now share this with you. This work is titled: “The Bread of Life: Report of the United States Roman Catholic–Reformed Dialogue on the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper.”
I believe this document reveals the kind of careful theological thinking that some of you do not know about. When Catholics and evangelicals talk past one another, which we do all the time, we do not realize the kind of work that we’ve already done toward understanding and mission. I encourage each of you, to the level of God’s grace and calling in your life, to experience the reality of what has already been happening, and what God is still doing, to bring us together in mission and ministry. We do not have to completely agree on all doctrinal issues to meaningfully collaborate in various acts of faithfulness to Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Thanks for sharing the report. I find these reports helpful because they are so focused on helping us use a common language to describe areas of agreement. In my reading of the last year, I think I am just starting to get to a point where I am at least identifying the right areas of where Evangelicals and Catholics are using language differently. We need more interpreters to be able to help us move together.
There are powerful currents of unity at work in the world…Br. Gros represents that work of the Spirit, as do other individuals and movements. See, for example, this dialogue between members of Reformed and Free Churches, Methodists and Catholics that took place last week in Berne, Switzerland: http://www.focolare.org/en/news/2012/11/09/svizzera-giornata-ecumenica/