Are there ways to heal divisions in the Body of Christ? As ecumenical efforts between Catholic and Protestant leaders continue, Beliefnet members from both churches discuss ways reunification could work. Read member SmithSaint's post below and respond with your own ideas about forming "One True Church."
"One of the saddest things I have ever heard of was the occasion of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury worshipping together--that on this, which should have been an occasion of great joy between two good men of God, they felt unable to share Communion together.
"Clearly, on the Catholic part, the current Pope (and indeed the whole spirit of Vatican II) has proclaimed an interest in ecumenism, in bringing Christians together. On the Protestant side, many denominations (Lutherans, Methodists, Anglican/Episcopals) have generally good feelings towards Catholics, share similar forms of worship, and also look forward to some sort of reconciliation, although I would think balking at complete union. Indeed, most of these groups have been talking at some level and with occasional progress.
"So--why hasn't more happened? Complete union seems very far off, but what sort of common framework might work? I could envision an agreement that all these groups are in fact part of the One Church, a means for sharing Sacraments, general agreement on key doctrinal issues such as salvation/justification and authority, mechanism for sharing clergy, the role of the Papacy, and so on.
"What do you think might be the form of such reconciliation? What other Protestant groups besides those I've mentioned might be involved? What would be the minimum Catholic requirement for sharing the Eucharist? Would the Protestants accept the full Catholic definition of the Real Presence? Baptism seems a no-brainer, but how (or would?) other Catholic sacraments (especially Reconciliation) be shared?"
"How would the issue of female Protestant clergy be dealt with? John Paul II has stated he might be willing to institute some changes in the Papacy for the sake of unity- what changes would be required by Protestants, or acceptable to Catholics? On what issues might the different groups "agree to disagree" without impacting mutual recognition (Purgatory, Assumption of Mary, etc.)? What other issues and roadblocks are there and how might they be overcome?
Yeah, this is a tough issue, but if the Israelis and Palestinians can at least talk about Jerusalem, we Brothers and Sisters in Christ ought to be able to do at least as much..."
Share your thoughts about the idea of ecumenism here.
SmithSaint also brings up three issues that could very well delay a unification of the Catholic Church with Protestant Churches:
On Apostolic Succession
"First, Apostolic succession, which the Catholics have, the Anglicans say they have (although the Catholics dispute this), and which the Lutherans and Methodists do not have. It would seem that some sort of 're-ordination rite" would suffice here, which would require some "swallowing of pride" on the Protestant part but should be workable. "
Marriage & Clergy
"Second, married clergy, which in fact there is precedent for the Catholics accepting."
Last and more difficult, of course, is female clergy. Catholics will not accept this, anytime soon, but one cannot expect the Protestants to agree to a wholesale defrocking of their female clergy. Possible "compromises" are Catholic acceptance of women Deacons, and then recognizing Protestant female clergy as such, or the creation of a new Catholic holy order including these women as well as Catholic women who might aspire to this."
Here's how some members have responded:
"Yes, indeed, ecumenism! This is where I think we must be humble and let the Spirit lead us. In implementing the idea of what we share in common, the first action I have witnessed is common prayer. Our next job is to treat each other as real brethren, brothers and sisters in Christ. Recognize our humanity, refuse to stereotype or close our minds. Filial relationships may lead to love, agape. But when we love, we rarely then mind our own business and we get involved with each other. Supporting, admonishing, asking reconciliation are some of the actions that may take place. I really think this can't happen without humbly asking and accepting the Holy Spirit's guidance. If we rely on our own plans we're bound to see divisiveness and old hurts surfacing."
"Basically if we use the Bible as our guide, the one true church of Christ is headed by Jesus, and our ministers should be chosen by Biblical standards. Anyone who accepts the Jesus as presented plainly in the New Testament, who prays and reads the Bible for guidance, has more in common with me than other people."
Responses to Apostolic Succession
"That anyone "has" a lineage of hands on ordination with a pedigree going back to Peter is simply an unproven assertion. The Roman Catholic Church makes the assertion but it cannot demonstrate that that is a fact. Repeating it over and over doesn't make it so nor does passing around fabricated lists of names and dates. Apostolic succession is supposed to be about keeping the faith of the apostles, not about some asserted "genealogy" table."
"I am afraid that an unbroken chain of legitimate popes is difficult to substantiate. At one point there were three popes. At other points the popes were mad (as in loonie) etc. etc... And I always wonder what Paul's 'reporting' relationship to Peter was since they fought like siblings."