On the evening of September 16 ACT 3 sponsored our first Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialog, hosted graciously by North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. (I say "first dialog" because we may do more such events in the days ahead but this one was, for us at least, a historic beginning.) This unique event was well attended, with about 200 people in the audience coming from many churches and several colleges: North Central, Illinois Benedictine, Wheaton and Elmhurst. (Students from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary, also came down for the event.) The moderator was Alan Krashesky, the anchorman for ABC television in Chicago. He served as an excellent leader for the evening keeping it on track and very fairly conducted. Alan grew up a Roman Catholic, converted to Evangelical Protestantism, and is respected by people on both sides of this kind of dialog. In fact, my Catholic friends requested that he moderate our event for three reasons: (1) They knew he is would be fair and generous; (2) He is intelligent and leads such events most professionally, and; (3) He is theologically sharp and thus understood the basic questions that we discussed. His involvement frankly made the evening much better than it would have been without him. Alan made the evening a great success in my view. Thanks Alan for your good work, a free gift of his time and talent to ACT 3.
This particular event came about because of several developments. About four years ago Trinity Nazarene Church in Naperville, Illinois, asked me to represent the Protestant side in a dialog with a Catholic priest I had never met. This event was hosted by the church through the work of an adult Sunday School class. Through that event I met Father Thomas Baima, the provost of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. Tom and I have since shared good meals, great conversation, interesting reading material and prayer. I have retreated at Mundelein Seminary, at Tom’s request and by his gracious provision, on several occasions. It is a lovely campus and an inviting place to pray and think. The library is fantastic and a great place to hang out. In the process of these various personal meetings at Mundelein Tom and I became real friends. (Tom also has a chapter in my forthcoming Zondervan book: Four Views on the Lord’s Supper.) We have openly discussed things that we are in agreement on as well as things we clearly differ about regarding our Christian faith. Most of our disagreements have been about our ecclesiology, which should be obvious to most readers.
About a year ago I asked Tom if we could do another public dialog but this time the two of us would arrange the program and agree on the subject matter in advance. We set this September 16th date and then each found a partner to join us. For me Andrew Sandlin was a natural. He is a dear friend, a well-read Christian leader, and a gracious man in all settings where there is disagreement. I requested that Father Robert Barron be the Catholic and Tom also agreed. The reason I made this request was because I have heard Bob Barron preach on the local Catholic radio program of the Chicago Archdiocese for some years. He is a brilliant biblical preacher and a clear engaging teacher. He is also an accomplished writer who recently had a book released by Brazos Press, an arm of Baker Books, an evangelical publishing house of highest reputation. Bob, in so many ways, “stole the evening.” His warmth, special skills in presentation, as well as his obvious charity, all made him especially winsome to so many of us. Andrew was far more able to press some important points than I would have been by myself and was also winsome. Tom Baima, a specialist in Roman Catholic ecclesiology, made specific points clear about Catholic dogma regarding the nature of the church very effectively. I told my own story of how I came late to this matter of Catholic/Evangelical dialog and why I believed it was so important now. I also engaged some of the issues that we agreed on as well as some we disagreed about as well.
We made a DVD of this event which lasts for 115 minutes. I am hopeful that it will be ready by next week. A preview with several excerpts will be posted on our Web site. I believe it will provide an unusually valuable resource for church and small group discussion. It will sell for $20, plus $3.50 for shipping and handling. An audio version will also be made available. I will provide information on how you can order these resources in the coming days when the final production is complete.
I will also provide more information on the dialog itself over the coming days. Keep checking this blog spot for reflections and response. Your charitable and reflective comments are welcome.