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Search for unity between Catholics and Methodists

by Bishop John Sherrington

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church met in Hong Kong from 12 to 19 October, hosted by the World Methodist Council with support from the Methodist Church in Hong Kong. The commission’s first engagement on arrival was to share in evening prayer in the Sky Chapel on the 22nd floor of Wesleyan House, with its panoramic views of the Hong Kong skyline.

In this second plenary meeting of the present round of conversations, the commission continued its theological dialogue on the subject of reconciliation as this relates in particular to the unity of the Church. A number of papers addressing specific aspects of reconciliation had been commissioned at our meeting in 2017. These papers were presented and discussed and the commission agreed the outline structure of our report, which bears the working title God in Christ reconciling. Members of the commission were assigned to produce preliminary drafts of each chapter for presentation and discussion at next year’s plenary meeting. The final report will be presented to the World Methodist Council meeting in Gothenburg in 2021.

Each day, we commenced our work by sharing together in devotions led alternately by Methodist and Catholic members of the commission. The official Catholic Mass was held on Saturday evening at the nearby Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Thanks to the generous hospitality of Parish Priest Fr Thomas Law, Catholic members of the commission were also able to celebrate daily Mass. On Sunday, members of the commission attended worship at the Methodist International Church, led by Rev Eden Fletcher.

In its final session, the commission shared together in the official Methodist celebration of Holy Communion, fittingly held in the Sky Chapel where we had begun our meeting. The Methodist co-chair, the Rev Dr David Chapman, presided and Prof Lilian Siwila preached a sermon. At this concluding service, the commission was joined by several local Methodists.

The joint commission hosted a dinner attended by representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong’s ecumenical commission and the Methodist Church in Hong Kong, during which we heard of the important work being done among the Christian churches.

On our final evening, following a dinner hosted by the Methodist Church in Hong Kong, the co-chairs of the joint commission led a well-attended seminar for local Methodists and Roman Catholics on the subject of Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue. The co-chairs presented copies of The Call to Holiness: From Glory to Glory (Houston, 2016) to representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and the Methodist Church in Hong Kong.

The joint commission will next meet at the Mariapolis (Focolare) Centre in Nairobi from 11th to 18th October 2019, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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