Lausanne-2014-GatheringLast fall the second annual Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation took place at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Twenty-six people, half of whom were from the Catholic Church and half of whom were from evangelical Protestant communities, joined together for a two-plus day dialogue. The opening evening included a public event that was recorded and can be seen on the ACT3 Network site. The 2013 event is also posted as a video on the same website.

Except for this one public meeting on the opening night the dialogue was intentionally informal and private. One of the greatest takeaways was our friendships and open conversation. We do not seek to solve direct problems (per se) or to write a major ecumenical paper. Our goal was to build trust and ask questions in a conversation of genuine love. We believe this is not the only way to address our present disunity but it is a major way, if not the best and first way. If love unites us in Christ then we must seek to experience this love together. This event allowed this to happen.

Following this gathering we wrote an account of our dialogue. This is not a “formal” ecumenical document approved by any church or agency. It is, I believe, an interesting account of what happened over the course of a few days.

Today I publish the first part of this Lausanne Report 2014. Over the next two days I will publish the entire document and make more comments.

Relationships for the Sake of the Mission

The 2014 Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation

University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois

September 11-13, 2014

The dialogue following Dr. Norberto Saracco’s “Pope Francis and the Unity of the Church in Mission” and Fr. Robert Barron’s “Pope Francis and the Evangelicals” suggested an opening opportunity for dialogue.  How can we move from what Fr. Barron called “Ecumenism 1.0,” the openness and mutual esteem that makes the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation possible, to “Ecumenism 2.0,” an open and frank discussion of what we hold in common, and where we differ?

Both ecclesial communities (Catholic and Protestant) share a love for Sacred Scripture, prayer, and service. The various churches bring particular strengths to the Christian mission.  The ecclesial communities that we call “evangelical” have a charism for declaring the joyful good news.  The Catholic Church has a charism for catechesis, formation, and liturgy.  Likewise, each has a hunger for what the other does well—Evangelicals for formation and liturgy; Catholics for presenting the kerygma as joyful good news.

To move forward in ecumenical dialogue, we need to acknowledge and embrace our harsh and sometimes painful shared history.  And such dialogue requires us to know the other persons, know their conversion story so as to enter their inner life, their relationship with God.  As Fr. Don Rooney remarked, “It’s all about relationship. .  . . And that person to whom we are relating is Jesus.”

Many instances of ecumenical dialogue in action emerged during informal conversations. A particular example was an exchange at the end of the first day during which Fr. Tom Baima and Dr. Chad Raith, along with others, began probing each other’s understanding of Eucharist. What emerged was the unexpected and breathtakingly frank acknowledgement that Catholics feel a lack in the full experience of Eucharist due to broken fellowship with Protestant brothers and sisters, and that Catholics indeed recognize some aspects of Eucharist present in Protestant communities.  Some being able to take the Eucharist when others cannot manifests the still-broken fellowship between members of the Catholic Church and their separated fellow Christians. The “sting” that Catholics feel when they take Communion while their brothers and sisters from other communities cannot reflects not a desire that Protestants become Catholics, but pain over the divisions which both communities have allowed to continue. David Hickman remarked afterward, “The grace in which Fr. Baima interacted with Dr. Raith was the height of ecumenism.”

To move toward “Ecumenism 2.0” while keeping faithful to our deeply held doctrinal convictions, Fr. Baima suggested that we look at the experience of the early Christian community, which intentionally did not form a diatessaron, but lived within the difference among the four Gospels. Like them, we can sit with our difference—even for years—and so seek a way to become what in Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis calls “a church of missionary disciples.”

How can such a church proceed?  It was suggested that we revisit Unitatis Redintegratio, which states: “Cooperation among Christians vividly expresses the relationship which in fact already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant” (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html).  Or, as David Hickman put it, “Collaboration is the new Reformation in the church.”