Methodist Roman Catholic International Commission
At an international level the World Methodist Council and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity has engaged in dialogue for over forty years. The ultimate goal of the dialogue is "full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life." The British Methodist Church has responded to the documents produced by this International Commission.
The ninth report, Encountering Christ the Saviour: Church and Sacraments, marks 45 years of conversations and was launched at the World Methodist Council in August 2011. In the eighth Report it was recognized that some matters remain questions of significant divergence between the two communions. One of these was the sacramental nature of ordination and the understanding of the ordained ministry as priesthood. Related to this was a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist. This present document addresses those questions, and in addition, looks for the first time in an extended way at the approach of each communion to the theology and practice of Baptism. It has done this in the context of the larger question of the sacramental understanding of the Church which has emerged consistently in reports of the dialogue over the preceding decades, and also of the paschal mystery of Christ, the way in which members of the Church participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus through the sacraments. A significant outstanding issue is the whole question of the experience of salvation and the response of the believer to the gift of God's grace. Catholics and Methodists have different emphases in the way they speak about this, which seem to underpin a number of other matters upon which they often diverge. Catholics and Methodists can be very grateful to God that their relationship in dialogue has so deepened that the most profound matters which shape their respective identities are now able to be discussed.
At the same meeting in August 2011, the Commission published a digest of the nine reports, issued over the last 40 years, Synthesis: Together to Holiness.
The last report, The Grace Given you in Christ, contains a number of suggestions for local groups of Catholics and Methodists to engage in dialogue and exploration of spirituality. The Conference response to the report can be found in the Faith and Order Committee General Report to Conference 2007 (page 451).
A British Committee, comprising of representatives appointed by the Methodist Conference and Catholic Bishops Conferences of England and Wales, and Scotland exists to undertake and promote dialogue and study. In 1992 the Committee produced a discussion paper entitled 'Can the Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches be Reconciled'. 1995 saw the production of a convergence statement 'Mary, Mother of the Lord. Sign of Grace, Faith and Holiness: Towards A Shared Understanding' was produced. Circuits were encouraged to study this statement which continues to help Catholics and Methodists to explore the place of Mary in the Christian tradition.
Following the second Vatican Council, at which there were Methodist observers, one of the most significant Catholic contributions to ecumenism was an encyclical by Pope John Paul II entitled Ut Unum Sint. The Pope sets out a number of issues for consideration by all Christians and in particular invites reflections on the Petrine Ministry and the role of the Bishop of Rome. The Conference has made two responses to the encyclical, on in 1997 and one in 1998 (see 'Statements and Reports of the Methodist Church on Faith and Order' Volume 2, Part 2, pages 430 and 432, on the Faith and Order Statements page).