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Ecumenical dialogue a seeking of truth

By Frank Flegel


MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Speaking in defence of the faith while engaging in ecumenical dialogue is not a contradiction, said Regina archdiocesan theologian and chair of the Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission Dr. Brett Salkeld in an interview with the Prairie Messenger. He was describing what took place at an Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission Workshop held April 22 in Moose Jaw.

The workshop theme was: the relationship between apologetics (giving an account of our beliefs and the defence of our faith against different objections), and ecumenism (the process of dialogue oriented to the unification of the church).

“Many people see these two things as opposites and we wanted to show that’s a false opposition,” said Salkeld.

Three speakers were featured at the workshop: Matt Nelson, a Catholic apologist who works from his home in Shaunavon, Sask.; Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen, a specialist in ecumenism who described how dialogue is not a watering down of the truth; and Dr. Bryan Hillis, president of Luther College, University of Regina. Hillis was asked to respond to comments from both Nelson on apologetics dialogues, and from Bolen about ecumenical dialogue, and, from a non-Catholic’s perspective, what Catholics sound like.

Nelson was asked to share how apologetics works and, within that concept, to talk about how it’s an appropriate dialogue to engage in with ecumenical partners. He gave participants at the workshop some words, some reasons, some tips on what they could use in conversations where they were defending themselves as being Catholic.

“Archbishop Bolen said dialoguing is not a watering-down of the truth but a mutual seeking of truth together,” said Saqlkeld. “Where we are very clear about our own convictions and the arguments that convince us and support our own positions, but where we are also very interested in listening carefully to what our Christion brothers and sisters believe, and where they disagree, we try to find common ground.”

Two things that stood out for Hillis in his response to Bolen’s comments, Salkeld said, were that as a Lutheran, it was great to hear Catholics rely so much on Scripture for their arguments, even if he disagreed with those arguments. He was also appreciative to hear that a Catholic’s understanding of ecumenism didn’t simply mean Lutherans need to become Catholics, but that it is a little more complicated than that.

Hillis and Bolen were described by Salkeld as two old friends who had an amiable back-and-forth at the end of the day which was enlightening for everyone.

“It was a very nice summary of the day where Bryan offered a critique and Bishop Don responded. It was helpful to hear that back-and-forth. It was good for the whole day because one of the things we wanted to see was an honest and forthright critique. It is actually a healthy part of dialogue. Dialogue doesn’t mean avoiding issues where you disagree. To actually see that engagement at the end of the day was really wonderful.”

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