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USCCB ecumenical committee recommends further study of Catholic-Evangelical document

The ecumenical affairs committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference has recommended that seminaries, dioceses, and individuals take up for study a document emphasizing the shared baptismal identity of Catholics and Evangelicals.

“We Catholics and Evangelicals recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ who have received the same baptism and call, as belonging to one and the same Christian family, and as sharing the same faith, hope, and love,” states the single-page document, which includes numerous Scriptural citations.

Credit: Jacob_09 / Shutterstock.


Entitled “The Gift of Being Christian Together,” the document was presented to a March meeting of USCCB’s Committee on Ecumenism by both the Catholic group Glenmary Home Missioners and the Evangelical group Kingdom Mission Society.

Nathan Smith, director of ecumenism for Glenmary Home Missioners, told The Pillar that the goal of the document is to create a starting point for dialogue between Catholics and Evangelicals, by recognizing that both groups share a faith in Christ, despite their differences.

The bishops’ ecumenism committee decided in mid-March to recommend the document and encourage further study of it.

A March 19 letter from Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, who heads the bishops’ committee on ecumenical affairs, notified leaders of the Glenmary Home Missioners and the Kingdom Mission Society that the committee was “most pleased” with the document.

“Although not a document of the committee nor a product of a dialogue sponsored by the USCCB, the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs hereby recommends ‘The Gift of Being Christian Together,’ along with the accompanying commentaries, be used in prayer and study, preferably within groups of Catholics and Evangelicals together,” the letter said.

Smith said that means the committee believes the document is worthy of further study and dialogue by bishops, seminaries, and other theological groups, as well as individual Christians.

While the text has not yet been published, Glenmary Home Missioners is working to launch a website that will help publicize the document. The group is also encouraging churches to share the document on Christ the King Sunday, and to preach about Christian unity and mission.

The ecumenical document notes points of tension that have existed between the two Christian communities at various times.

“We repent of all absences of familial love between Evangelicals and Catholics, among which has been the theologically dubious claim that either Evangelicals or Catholics are not Christians,” the document states, according to a copy obtained by The Pillar.

“Against this work of division, together we pray for fuller unity among Catholics and Evangelicals, who already share a common calling and mission, which includes a union both with Christ and with all of his disciples, and a witness in the world through mutual love for one another.”

The document acknowledges theological disagreements between Catholics and Evangelicals, but stresses that “[t]hese disagreements, some seemingly irresolvable, nonetheless demonstrate that we affirm in the other a common calling from Christ and belief in him as Lord.”

“[M]any of the doctrinal, disciplinary, and liturgical differences between Evangelicals and Catholics, some substantial, presume a shared, even if contested commitment to Christ.”

United in baptism, Evangelicals and Catholics are called to live as brothers and sisters, seeking maturity in Christ despite these theological divisions, it says.

“To be a Christian is to be a pilgrim, to be moving towards full conformity to the One whose name we bear.”

The document emphasizes that the core of Christianity is the living presence of Christ among his followers.

“Catholics, in describing what it means to be a Christian, often emphasize the sacramental life of the Church, and Evangelicals often stress personal faith in Christ,” it says. “Yet, we know that there are degrees of conformity to Christ not only in other Christians with whom we disagree but within our own lives and communities as well.”

“We accept the gift of accompanying our brothers and sisters as we all seek to attune our lives and thoughts to Christ, acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior.”

The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs focuses on relations between Christians and between Catholics and other religious groups. The committee has been led since 2023 by Bishop Bambera.

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