Monday, October 13, 2014

Catholics, evangelicals come together in faith

Catholics, evangelicals come together in faith

Leader-Post | October 10, 2014

For the past four years, ecumenical dialogue has been taking place between Catholics and evangelicals in Saskatoon.

It began when the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers’ Fellowship invited the new Catholic Bishop, Donald Bolen, to speak at their meeting in November 2010. That was followed by an invitation from Bishop Bolen for the two groups to dialogue.

A 10-member team was mandated to represent each group, with Nicholas Jesson, ecumenical officer for the Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and Harry Strauss, associate pastor at Forest Grove Community Church in that city, as conveners.

Over the past three years, the team has met 13 times to draft a Common Statement of Faith. The group also participated when the National Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue came to Saskatoon.

“We are unique in the country and possibly beyond because of the Common Statement of Faith we have drafted,” Jesson says. We are hoping to push our dialogue into common mission which will be affirmed at the grassroots level.”

Strauss says the dialogue has been broken into three sections, “confirming our shared faith, acknowledging central differences, and affirming common mission. Included in our dialogue mandate is the conviction that all dialogue should lead to the missional expression.”

The statement of faith offers possible ideas for missional expression like shared prayer and worship, fellowship, studying the Bible together, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, marriage and family life, ministry to children and youth, social and ethical issues, humanitarian outreach, and common engagement in the public sphere.

Strauss and Jesson say several significant advances have already come from the dialogue, including relationship building, two Catholic-evangelical worship/prayer services, the drafted Common Statement of Faith and expressions of engagement that capture the spirit of the dialogue, and a divine momentum driven by the spirit of God.

Why is Catholic-evangelical dialogue important? Jesson says, “In our current state, our Christian churches tend to be isolated environments. To the world around us, we appear to be divided, and that is contrary to Christ’s prayer for unity among His followers. It is contrary to the best interests of mission and evangelism, and it is contrary to what we really believe. As Christians we don’t need to be at odds.”

Strauss offers an applicable quote: ‘A first-class gospel calls for a first-class fellowship.’