1. This is the report of the fifth phase of the international dialogue between some
Classical Pentecostal churches and leaders and the Catholic Church held from 1998-2006.
2. This dialogue began in 1972 and thirty-five years of conversation have shown that
Pentecostals and Catholics share many aspects of Christian faith and life. Although
they have much in common and the unity of the church is a concern that both share,
there are still a number of important areas where Pentecostals and Catholics remain
divided. Thus, it has been our intention in this dialogue to continue the development
of a climate of mutual respect and understanding in matters of faith and practice, to
find points of genuine agreement, and to indicate areas in which we believe further
dialogue is required.
3. The goal of this dialogue is to foster this respect and understanding between the
Catholic Church and Classical Pentecostal churches rather than to seek structural
unity. We hope to continue to seek resolution to those differences that keep us
separated from one another, especially in light of the prayer of Jesus for his disciples
“that they may all be one… so that the world may believe…” (John 17:21). 1
4. The first two phases of the Dialogue published reports in 1977 and 1984 respectively.
The report of the third phase was entitled Perspectives on Koinonia (1990). The fourth
phase was on Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness (1997). 2 During the
years in which these four studies were completed (1972-1997), Pentecostals and
Catholics often referred in their discussions, not only to the Scriptures, but also to some
of the theologians of the early church—the patristic witnesses—when they explained
their respective understandings of the Christian faith. The current round of dialogue
has chosen to be more intentional in appealing not only to biblical sources, but also to
patristic sources. As a result, throughout this report the reader will see many references
made to contributions in which these sources have enriched our work together.
A. On Becoming a Christian
5. The theme of this phase of dialogue has been “On Becoming a Christian.” Catholics
and Pentecostals are convinced of the importance of being fully integrated into the life
of the church. In this dialogue we have attempted to understand how an individual
moves from his or her initial entry into the Christian life to being a fully active
member of the church.
6. There are at least two important reasons why we have focused on this theme. First,
during the study of Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness participants in
the dialogue concluded that some members of our churches do not always recognize
one another as Christians. As a result, it is easy to imagine that from time to time,
tensions exist between Pentecostals and Catholics. By exploring together how one
becomes a Christian, how one is initiated into the Christian community, how one is
taught to follow Jesus and is formed by the community, and by reviewing the
importance of religious experience in one’s life, we believe that we might be able to
assist our communities to recognize more easily that we are sisters and brothers in
Christ. The topics we chose to help us understand how one becomes a Christian
include faith, conversion, experience, formation and discipleship, and Baptism in the
Holy Spirit. Both teams made presentations on these subjects, each of which was the
focus of one annual session.
7. Second, as a direct result of conversations on the subject of Baptism in the Holy Spirit
that took place in earlier sessions of the dialogue, Father Kilian McDonnell OSB, who
served as the Catholic Co-Chair from 1972-2000, co-authored a book entitled Christian
Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit.3 Through his study of early Christian texts,
Father McDonnell maintained that Baptism in the Holy Spirit has a direct relationship
to the earliest understandings of Christian Initiation. He suggested that in the writings
of the Fathers of the church there is evidence of the experience of the Baptism in the
Holy Spirit in the process of Christian Initiation in such a way that Baptism in the Holy
Spirit belongs to that which is “constitutive of the church.” By undertaking its own
inquiry into this subject, the dialogue studied these and other early texts to determine
whether they might provide a bridge between our two communities.
B. Biblical and Patristic Sources
8. Pentecostals and Catholics, along with other Christians, acknowledge the uniqueness of
the Bible as the inspired and authoritative Word of God, normative for the faith and life
of the church. The Scriptures, therefore, are obviously the most basic, foundational
source for Christian reflection. But why did we choose to include extensive reference
to various writings from the patristic era in this study?
9. The writings of the Fathers of the church play an important role in the Catholic
understanding of the Word of God. As a result, the Catholic team wanted to share with
its Pentecostal partners some of the richness of this patristic tradition. These writers
are, after all, part of the larger Christian community that spans the centuries. Their
writings share much from their life and wisdom, obtained when the church was still
young and frequently living in difficult times. They bear witness to the faith and to the
ways in which the Christian lives and ministries of these writers were strengthened
through their faithfulness as well as their love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ in
the power of the Holy Spirit.
10. Members of the Pentecostal team thought that this approach might enrich its study as
well. They wondered just how much they differed with Catholics on the nature of
authority they grant to the Fathers of the church. Like Catholics, Pentecostals view the
Fathers as providing genuine and vital testimonies to the faithfulness of God. As
Christians, their testimony to what it meant for them to love the Lord their God with all
their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and their neighbours as themselves, is compelling.
The Pentecostal team believed that the proximity of these Christian leaders to the time
in which Jesus and His disciples lived might prove to be instructive as we sought
together to understand how the earliest Christians were moved from the point of
conversion to full participation in the life of the church.
11. While the value we ascribe to the authority of the patristic writings may differ,
Pentecostals and Catholics together acknowledge the importance of these authors,
many of whom were leaders, pastors and bishops, and many of whom became martyrs,
in the ongoing life of the church. It was they who contributed to the process of
discernment that ultimately gave us the canon of Scripture, which has served the church
in subsequent centuries. Patristic texts demonstrate how biblical teaching was applied
in everyday life in each new situation during their day. They provide insight into the
ways in which these Fathers understood Scripture, and Catholics believe that they help
the church to interpret Scripture.
12. The patristic writers helped the church to translate the biblical faith into the conceptual
frameworks of the people dominant in cultures different from those in the lands and
times in which the Bible was written. They can assist the church in following Jesus’
command to “go…and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). Most of these
writers enjoyed a reputation for holiness. Some are celebrated and recalled within the
liturgical life and patterns of different churches. Their efforts to combat erroneous
interpretations of Scripture and deviant movements, to define acceptable boundaries,
and to help the faithful understand the life and teachings of Jesus, and “the faith that
was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3), led the church to more precise
expressions of the central Christian doctrines about the Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit,
and salvation, doctrines approved by the early councils, and reflected in the ancient creeds.
13. The writings of these early Fathers also convey a close association between theology
and pastoral concerns, and thus, they are aimed at doxology and devotion to God. They
have interpreted the moral and ethical demands of discipleship. They assisted the
church in the development of liturgical forms of worship. In these many ways their
work has supported Christians as they have sought to live the Christian life. Their
reflections on the various themes contributing to this study, have been valuable. Thus,
while the Bible is the highest authority (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum
Sint 79) for knowing God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, the patristic writings may be seen
as having a privileged place in the post-biblical church.
C. The Dialogue
14. At the first meeting in 1998 in Bolton (Ontario, Canada) the dialogue explored the
question of whether the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as found in contemporary religious
expression is reflected in biblical and patristic sources, especially in relationship to
Christian Initiation. In subsequent years the dialogue treated the questions of “Faith”
(1999, Venice, Italy), “Conversion” (2000, Vienna, Austria), “Experience” (2001,
Celje, Slovenia), and “Discipleship and Formation” (2002, Sierra Madre, California,
USA). Plenary drafting sessions were held in 2003 (Rottenburg, Germany), 2004
(Torhout, Belgium), 2005 (Prague, Czech Republic), and 2006 (Bose, Italy). In
addition, three smaller drafting meetings were held (Amsterdam, Netherlands, February
2003; Springfield, Missouri, USA, February 2004 and Rome, Italy, November 2004).
After the last plenary session, further drafting was required in order to finalize the
report. It now presents this report to its readers for evaluation and discussion.
15. Some of the terms used in this study are more familiar to one partner than to the other.
The term “Christian Initiation,” for instance, is not found in the New Testament, nor is
it normally used by Pentecostals. It is, however, commonly used by Catholics to refer
to the process whereby one becomes a Christian. The term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”
is neither the precise wording found in the New Testament, (Mark 1:8 uses the
expression “baptize you with the Holy Spirit”) nor is it generally used in the Catholic
Church, though it is commonly used by Classical Pentecostals and most Catholic
Charismatics. Thus, one of the benefits during this phase of dialogue has been to
achieve a better understanding of the way we use such terms.
16. We have sought to represent faithfully the positions held by our churches, though the
positions presented and the conclusions reached here by members of both teams are the
responsibility of those who took part in this dialogue. We have made no decisions for
the churches since we have no authority to make such decisions. The diversity of the
Pentecostal Movement mitigates against a single position on certain topics. When the
Pentecostal participants speak as a single voice, they do so by gathering together what
they believe to be the common consensus held by the vast majority of Pentecostals
17. Within this context, as responsible persons representing our respective traditions, we
have come together over a period of years to study the issues of evangelization,
proselytism, and common witness and now, how we understand the ways one becomes
a Christian. We hereby submit our findings to our respective churches for review,
evaluation, correction and reception. We hope that this report will be studied and
discussed widely by Catholics and Pentecostals within their communities, and
18. During our time together participants have repeatedly noted how important the reading
of Scripture and of prayer together have been to the success of our work. Each day,
both morning and evening, we have come together to read the Bible and pray, not only
for our work together, but also for the churches which we represent. At the annual
meetings we have worshipped in one or the other’s churches.
D. A New Time in History
19. We are mindful, as well, that this phase of our dialogue has come at a unique time in
history. The world has moved from the Twentieth to the Twenty-First Century, and
from the second millennium following the birth of Christ, to the beginning of the third.
This has given us an opportunity to deepen our relationship in other ways. The
Pentecostal Co-Chair of this dialogue accepted several invitations from the Catholic
Church to participate in various ecumenical celebrations in Rome during the Jubilee
Year 2000. In addition he participated in the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI. The
new century and the new millennium give us new opportunities and impetus to
continue our work of reconciliation, and to give witness together to the Gospel.
20. There is another significant development that roughly corresponds to the time period in
which this fifth phase of dialogue has taken place. The international Pentecostal-Catholic dialogue from its beginning in 1972 until approximately the mid 1990s was
the only international dialogue in which Classical Pentecostals took part. But over the
past decade international dialogues and discussions have also been initiated between
Classical Pentecostals with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World
Council of Churches, and the Lutheran World Federation. Furthermore, the recent
initiative in the USA called Christian Churches Together includes the Catholic Church
and several Pentecostal churches along with Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans in
new contact with each other. Another recent initiative called the Global Christian
Forum, which has held international conferences in the USA, Asia, Africa, Europe, and
Latin America has served as a new instrument in which Pentecostals and Evangelicals
in those regions have had contacts, often for the first time, with leaders of Orthodox,
Catholic, Anglican and mainline Protestant churches. In different parts of the world
Pentecostal communities have become members of National Councils of Churches.
21. These various encounters illustrate the growth of Pentecostal interest in ecumenism,
and the interest of various Christian communions to engage in dialogue with
Pentecostals. This development is helpful for the Pentecostal-Catholic International
dialogue, as it enables us to see this dialogue in the broader context of the wider
ecumenical movement. Looking back at all of these recent developments, including the
continuing fruitfulness of this Pentecostal-Catholic dialogue, we cannot help but think
that these are examples of grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit to continually foster
reconciliation among the divided disciples of Christ, “so that the world may believe”.
22. During this period, the dialogue has been co-sponsored by the Catholic Church
(through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and by Classical
Pentecostals, all of whom have support for their participation within their communities,
and some of whom have been officially named as representatives of their churches.
The Pentecostal churches that have sent official participants include the Apostolic Faith
Mission of South Africa, the Church of God of Prophecy, the International Church of
the Foursquare Gospel, the Verenigde Pinkster-en Evangeliegemeenten of the
Netherlands, and the Open Bible Churches.
23. The Reverend Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. (Assemblies of God) served as Pentecostal Co-Chair. Father Kilian McDonnell OSB served as Catholic Co-Chair for the first three
years of this phase, and after his retirement, was succeeded as Co-Chair by Msgr John
A. Radano. Co-Secretaries have been, for the Pentecostal side, the Reverend Ronald A.
N. Kydd (1998) and then the Reverend Steve Overman (1999-2006), and for the
Catholic side, Msgr Juan Usma Gómez.
24. As we complete this fifth phase of dialogue we wish to recall the many important
contributions made to these conversations by Father Kilian McDonnell. With the aid of
David du Plessis, he helped to initiate these discussions in 1972. He served as Catholic
chairman from that time through the beginning of this fifth phase, before he retired in
the year 2000. We acknowledge with deep gratitude that both communities owe him a
huge debt for his contributions to whatever success this dialogue has achieved over the
- All biblical references are to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.(1989).
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- The official versions of the four reports of the previous rounds of discussions can be found in: Final Report 1972-1976, in: Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Information Service [IS] 32 (1976/III) 32-37 and in: One in Christ 12:4 (1976) 309-318; Final Report 1977-1982, in: IS 55 (1984/ II-III) 72-80 and in: Pneuma 12:2 (1990) 97-115; Perspectives on Koinonia, in: IS 75 (1990/IV) 97-115 and in: Pneuma 12:2 (1990) 117-142; Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness, in: IS 97 (1998/I-II) 38-56 and in: Pneuma 21:1 (1999) 11-51. All these reports are gathered in: Jeffrey Gros, FSC, Harding Meyer, and William G. Rusch, Eds. Growth in Agreement II: Reports and Agreed Statements on a World Level, 1982-1998 (Geneva, Switzerland: WCC Publications / Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 713-779.
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- Kilian McDonnell and George T. Montague, Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries (Collegeville, MN: A Michael Glazier Book / The Liturgical Press, 1991, 2nd Revised Edition, 1994), 396 pp.
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