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Participants in the Roman Catholic-Reformed Ecumenical Dialogue in the United Stated are encouraged by the most recent gathering of church and ecumenical representatives. The latest meeting was held before the holidays late last year with representatives from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Church of Christ and the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

“The prospectus for this ninth round of the dialogue between the Reformed churches and the United States Conference of Bishops is an opportunity to build upon the dialogue on the sacraments and ecclesiology by considering the relationship between baptism, eucharist and ministry and our commitments to justification and justice,” said Dianna Wright, director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations with the Office of the General Assembly. “Our hope for visible unity is possible as we focus on our mutual calling to live as a people justified by faith, giving witness to God’s intention for a world marked by injustice.”

Wright says the group is reviewing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) and the World Communion of Reformed Churches’ association with JDDJ to name the implications it has for our churches within the diverse context of the United States. The group is also exploring how justification and justice are related to the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and to mission and ministry.

“We began with a discussion on what John Calvin calls mystical union. In speaking of this 'unio mystica,' Calvin relates it to faith, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the sacraments and election,” she said. “It connects directly to his understanding of justification and sanctification, and we reflected on the similarities and differences between the Reformed and Catholic perspectives.”

This has been a 50-year journey, as the first round of dialogue began soon after the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), which prepared the way for ecumenical discussions.

“Whatever its conclusion, the dialogue is an important part of our common witness as Christians in a world so divided. Our congregations need the church to speak in a way that will empower them to walk together as one in their communities,” said Wright. “What we need is a response and report that will have practical applications for the life and witness of our congregations and our interactions with one another.”

Wright says the final portions of this round of conversation will examine the ways in which the discovery of new areas of convergence and joint work in justice offer fresh possibilities for understanding and name the implication for ecclesiology.

“Other themes to explore may include pneumatology (the role of the Spirit in justification and the work of justice), definitions of justice, biblical foundations and justice as it relates to the church, mission and ministry, the work of justice in the world today, love for God and neighbor, liturgy and the concept of habit,” said Wright.

The next meeting will be held June 4–6 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Center in Chicago.