Catholics and Methodists discuss differing understanding of authority

Important differences remain between Methodists and RomanCatholics on the role that lay people can play in decision-makingand preaching in their two Churches.

Methodists are calling upon Catholics to bring lay people moreformally into decision-making bodies, including those that have'authoritative discernment and teaching' roles. This should allowthem to share responsibility with bishops, "who nevertheless retaintheir special ministry of authoritative teaching".

Catholics, in return, want the Methodist Church to more formallydistinguish the role of ordained ministers, especially bishops andsuperintendents, in the running of Methodist Conferences. This isparticularly the case "where authoritative discernment and teachingare concerned".

These differences have emerged in a report by representatives ofthe two Churches, discussed by the World Methodist Counciltoday.

The Council, meeting in Brighton, welcomed this latest report oninternational talks between the Methodist and Roman CatholicChurches on what each Church understands as its teaching authority.It recognises that there are still significant differences betweenthe two denominations, but is also positive about the common groundthat has emerged between Catholics and Methodists in recentdecades.

"A significant point of divergence is the idea of a guaranteedor 'covenanted' means of grace, and the grounding this gives to theRoman Catholic understanding of the teaching authority of thecollege of bishops united with the Pope. Methodists wonder whethera doctrine of guaranteed indefectibility of teaching takes fullaccount of human frailty and sinfulness," says the report.

It goes on to say that Methodists and Catholics are fully agreedthat the teaching of the Church must always be tested againstScripture and Tradition.

"Methodists and Catholics can rejoice that the Holy Spirit usesthe ministries and structures of both Churches as a means of graceto lead people into the truth of the Gospel of Christ."

The report, 'Speaking the truth in Love', is the result of talksover the past five years between Methodists and Catholics.Representatives of the Catholic Pontifical Council for ChristianUnity and the World Methodist Council have taken part in thedialogue.

The World Methodist Council discussion commended ongoing talkswith the Catholic Church. The report noted that topics for futurediscussion are expected to include further exploration of therelationship between ordination, authoritative teaching and thesure guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The World Methodist Council meets from Tuesday 24 July toWednesday 25 July
The 18th World Methodist Conference meets from Thursday 26 July toTuesday 31 July

Furtherinformation on the World Methodist Conference