Last night I watched the unedited edition of our forthcoming DVD of our September 16th event. The quality and sound are excellent and World Win Media did a very nice job of helping us produce this event in a video form. I will make information known about ordering this DVD soon, perhaps in the next few days. Stay tuned.
It was fun to watch the event for myself and to recall moments and points that we all made and then to see how we responded to each other and what I remember saying. (I do not trust my memory these days but my overall sense of the evening was confirmed by seeing it. It was an irenic conversation and one that I think should be seen by all who are truly interested in honest ecumenical dialog and friendship between faithful Christians.)
The question of authority was central to our differences. We agreed that the Bible was the primary witness to Christ and that the early church, the creeds and the developing Christian tradition all play a very important role. Where we differ is in regard to the role actually played by a living infallible magisterium and whether or not Christ intended for Peter, and through him the Petrine office, to continue and develop in the form(s) argued for by the Roman Catholic Church. (Here we would be much more in agreement with the Orthodox Church, which also rejects the papacy.) We agreed on the text regarding Jesus speaking to Peter about "the rock" but not on the role of the magisterial and living teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This surprises no one who knows and understands why we are still in different communions of Christian faith.
Let me add here, for my Catholic readers, that a rejection of the papacy does not equal a hatred for the man who holds the Petrine office. I personally loved John Paul II very profoundly and read Benedict XVI with great appreciation and interest, far more than most Catholics that I know. I pray for him regularly and can say I love him as my brother and as the pastor/leader of the largest communion of Christians in the world. I honor him without acknowledging the claim that he is the head of the Christian Church on earth. Only Catholics who are fierce in their emotional loyalty to the papacy would see this as anything but charity and respect. Even Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote a marvelous book on Christian brotherhood, would see my stance as one that he could respect without communing me as a Roman Catholic Christian.
Another interesting point of discussion was what we had mutually learned from similar dialogs and friendships with one another, and more broadly with different communions as represented by both Catholics and evangelicals. I realized again that I had learned a lot from Roman Catholics personally. I have learned to listen to the whole Church with much greater respect and love. I have also learned why some of our differences are not as large as I once thought and why some of them are even more difficult than I might have other wised imagined until I learned to listen.
More important than all of the above observations I have learned from Catholic liturgy to respect the role of my entire human person (body, senses, etc.) in worship. I have also learned much from the rich treasures of devotion and piety that are to be found prior to the Protestant era. The Church existed long before the 16th century and there is a great deal, East and West, to enrich me and all other Christians who are ready to learn. I think the evening brought out a great deal of this as I watched it last night for myself.
I hope other such events will be done by ACT 3 in order to contribute meaningfully to the mission and unity of the whole Christian Church in our time.