Catholics and United Methodists Together is a new collaborative, two-part publication resulting from decades of dialogue between representatives of the UMC and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Peggy Johnson, of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, co-chaired the latest in a series of dialogues that began in 1966.
Johnson joined Bishop David P. Talley of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in co-chairing this eighth dialogue, which produced the new 2020 publication. Both parts of Catholics and United Methodists Together are available—along with past years’ publications—on the websites of both the UMC Council of Bishops and the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The first book, subtitled “We Believe, We Pray, We Act,” emphasizes the importance of our shared recognition of one another’s baptisms, and pastoral commentaries on the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the commandment to love God and neighbor.
The second book, subtitled “Shared Prayers and Resources,” offers a practical guide for Methodists and Catholics to learn, pray and worship together. It describes shared traditions of prayer and worship and includes models for ecumenical prayer services.
It also includes accessible teaching on conducting dialogue, a description of mutual and divergent sacramental practices, and a summary of the results of all of the two ecclesial groups’ past 50 years of official dialogues.
“The UMC and the Roman Catholics do so much together,” said Bishop Johnson, who prepared a separate PowerPoint slideshow. “I went to great lengths to interview chaplains, immigration workers, disaster workers, disability workers, prison workers, chaplains, pastors—some amazing people. Ministry involves people sharing acts of compassion, not just prayers, songs and theology.”
The new publication manifests the dialogue committee’s desire for the “deep spiritual communion” shared within the group over the decades to be shared more widely among United Methodists and Catholics everywhere. In the spring of 2019 Johnson hosted the group at Historic St. George’s UMC in Philadelphia—the oldest continually used Methodist church building in the U.S. “They were amazed at the history there,” she recalled.
“It is now time for the dialogue to take on new life within and between our respective communions,” the dialogue’s episcopal co-chairs write in the new publication’s introductory letter. “The unity of Christ’s church must take root in our hearts and bear fruit in shared learning, prayer, worship, and service within our faith communities.”