A Journey of Faith : Reformed and Catholic

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Jeffrey Gros

Abstract

In response to Christ's prayer, "that they may all be one," (John 17:21), all Christians are called to conversion not only to Christ, but to his church and to the unity he willed for his followers. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and its members live out their commitment to visible unity through their commitments to full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran churches worldwide, through their dialogue toward full communion with other churches, including the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. and worldwide through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, in dialogues of the Faith and Order movement in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as through memberships in councils of churches.


The Reformed churches, including the RCA, claim to be part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church confessed in the creed, as does the Catholic Church. However, the Reformed and Catholic churches have yet to recognize each other's ecclesiological claims, understandings of the apostolic faith, the sacraments and ordained ministry, and the order necessary for the church's unity. Therefore these dialogues are important preludes to that full communion for which we pray.


Church unity, wherever it emerges between estranged Christians, is a gift from God. Nevertheless, healing the great division of the Reformation between Catholic and Protestant heirs of the Western tradition has to be among the most pressing and exciting expression of the Spirit's call in our day. The Lutheran-Catholic "Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith" and the thirty years of dialogue that stand behind it are monuments to the possibility of transcending the very touchstone of Luther's critique of the Catholic Church. This declaration was formulated with the full participation of the Reformed churches of Germany. It is hoped that some Reformed churches around the world may see their way to adopting it as well. 4 If the Reformation and the churches that are its heirs are to be resources for gospel renewal for Christians in the future, the ecumenical character of Luther and Calvin's intent will have again to be a shared mandate for all Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike.


In this brief essay, honoring the career and vision of Donald Bruggink, we shall survey the vision of visible unity shared by Catholics and the RCA (1) in the context of World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order dialogues, (2) in the international dialogues sponsored by the Vatican and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and (3) the U.S. ecumenical dialogues between the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Reformed churches, in which the RCA is a valued participant along with the Presbyterian church, the United Church of Christ, and, from time to time, other American Reformed churches. In the context of this discussion, contributions of the U.S. Faith and Order Commission, of which Bruggink has been an active member for over ten years, will be noted.

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Keywords
World Council of Churches -- Relations; Reformed Church in America -- Relations; Reformed Church -- Relations -- Catholic Church; Ecumenical movement -- United States
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