Diocesan administrator Rev. Kevin McGee (left) and Pastor Jakob Palm, chair of the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers’ Fellowship, led a joint worship service May 16 to launch a new Saskatoon Evangelical-Roman Catholic Commission for Common Witness. (Photo by Tim Yaworski)
SASKATOON — The relationship between Evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians has entered a new phase in Saskatoon.
After five and a half years, a local Evangelical-Catholic dialogue group is concluding its work, and a new Saskatoon Evangelical-Roman Catholic Commission for Common Witness is being established. The new commission was launched May 16 at a joint worship service of celebration and commissioning held at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
Pastor Jakob Palm, chair of the Saskatoon Evangelical Ministers’ Fellowship (SEMF), and diocesan administrator Rev. Kevin McGee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon opened the evening of prayer and witness, which included a blessing of the members who have so far been named to the new commission.
Since December 2011, the local Evangelical-Catholic dialogue has met to build friendships, to share faith, and to dialogue, exploring what the two traditions hold in common and where differences continue to divide, described dialogue co-chair and SEMF member Pastor Harry Strauss of Forest Grove Community Church.
Over the years, the Evangelical-Catholic dialogue has held joint worship services, developed a joint statement entitled “Called to Common Witness,” and hosted public events, Strauss said.
The “Called to Common Witness” joint statement also appeals to the two communities to share together in common witness and service, said dialogue co-chair Nicholas Jesson, Ecumenical Officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
“Our two communities share a common conviction about the Christian life: Christ is forming us by the Holy Spirit into a faithful people called together and sent into the world to participate in his life and mission,” said Jesson, quoting from the document. “Although we have differences about certain aspects of the life of faith, we share convictions about Jesus that ground our call to common witness and mission. Compelled by the love of Christ, we therefore urge our communities to look for ways to worship and work together.”
Possible areas of co-operation proposed in “Called to Common Witness” include: worship and prayer, fellowship, listening to God’s word together, proclaiming the Gospel, strengthening marriages and families, reaching out to children and youth, addressing social and ethical issues, providing direct outreach to those in need, and engaging in the public sphere.
The new commission “is to give particular attention to prayer and education for Christian reconciliation and unity, and to forming Christian disciples committed to working together in common witness and service,” Jesson said.
“Called to reconciliation for the sake of the world, we discover that our work together is not just a pragmatic response to a world in need but it is a faithful response to our Lord who invites us to leave our gifts at the altar and go first to be reconciled to our brother and sister. Together we will seek to find ways before Christ to reconcile our continuing differences and we pray together that God will bring us to unity so that the world may believe.”
During the joint worship service Evangelical-Catholic dialogue members David Smith of Holy Spirit Parish and Pastor Bob Parker of the Church of Christ spoke about the impact of the dialogue in their lives, and friendships that have developed in the process.
“I came to a deeper realization that the gifts that we have — the gifts of God’s children — are different, but they are very complementary, and we do have an obligation to share our respective gifts among the traditions,” said Smith.
“Understanding doesn’t fix everything, but it does move some of those prickly points of theology into the arena of lived-out faith, and this is really the area that we all have to function in,” said Parker.
Phil and Mary Wrubleski of the diocesan Marriage Task Force also shared their experience working as part of the ecumenical Saskatoon Marriage Network, discovering a new group of Evangelical Christian friends and colleagues to pray and to collaborate with.
“How can we ever hope to understand each other if we never talk? How can we ever love like Jesus did if we don’t communicate? How can we ever make marriages better if we don’t reach out to other churches and see the good things they are doing?” said Phil Wrubleski.
Scripture from Ephesians 4: 1-16 was proclaimed by Leanne Bellamy, with a reflection provided by Dr. David Guretzki of Briercrest College in Caronport, Sask., who has served on the national Evangelical-Catholic dialogue.
“We all have a role to play in the Body of Christ — everyone in the Body of Christ has a place — there is beauty in the diversity of Christ’s body,” said Guretzki, stressing that Christian unity is not something in our power to achieve, but is the work of God.
“My prayer is that we will repent of any hubris to think that we are the ones who accomplish unity, and second my prayer is that we would make every effort to keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and the perfector of all of our work, “he said.
Guretzki was also the guest speaker at a joint Evangelical-Catholic event held the night before the worship service, entitled “Justification and the Unity of the Churches: A lecture on Evangelical-Catholic relations.”
The joint worship service continued with prayers, hymns, and the exchange of a sign of peace among those assembled, before Rev. Bernard de Margerie and Pastor Brendon Gibson offered prayers of blessing and commissioning for members of the newly formed commission.
Members include: Dr Jeromey Martini, president of Horizon College and Seminary; Dr. Johann Malan and Mientjie Malan of Emmanuel Baptist Church; Pastor Larry Thomas, Courts of Praise Foursquare Gospel Church and member of SEMF; Cathy LaFleche of Holy Family Parish, executive director of Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre; Daniel Pettipas, co-ordinator of Evangelization and Adult Faith Formation at St. Anne Parish; Myron Rogal, co-ordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; David Smith, a member of the original Evangelical-Catholic dialogue group from Holy Spirit Parish; and Nathan Yaworski, who is also a member of Holy Spirit Parish as well as serving on the diocesan Ecumenical Commission.