Canadian Church to enter into dialogue with Evangelicals

  • January 19, 2011
Margaret O'GaraOTTAWA - The Catholic Church in Canada has agreed to begin a formal theological dialogue with Evangelicals. 

“It’s a new thing in Canada,” said Margaret O’Gara, a theology professor at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College who has been involved in Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox dialogue for the past 35 years. She will be among the Catholic participants.

“We all have the expectation that this will be a personally enriching experience and that, hopefully, we will contribute to the strength of the Church in Canada,” said David Freeman, who is strategic interface vice president for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.

Freeman will be the Evangelical co-chair of the dialogue, with Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan as the Catholic co-chair.

The first set of meetings will take place March 24-25 in Toronto.

Evangelicals and Catholics have been meeting informally since 2008 to explore whether to enter into formal talks. Freeman said a consensus began to emerge from the preliminary gatherings that “resulted in rich personal relationships.” Members began to learn about the respective traditions and what they can offer each other and that “ongoing conversation needs to be rooted in ministry together, in co-operation, and not just dialogue.”

But Freeman admits not all Evangelicals will understand the reasons for a formal dialogue with Catholics.

“Some would have great concern about theological differences and others would question the ability of Catholics to be culturally relevant, something which Evangelicals have tried to address,” he said.

“However, there are many Evangelicals who appreciate the continuity they see in the Catholic Church and there is an increasing appreciation of historic expressions of spirituality reflected in Catholic worship.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada have participated together in interventions before various courts, and have also participated side by side in the public square on issues such as traditional marriage.

But O’Gara said the theological discussions will not be issue-driven but probe the theological foundations both share as well as explore where they disagree. It will explore questions such as “Who is Jesus Christ?” “What does it mean to believe in God?” and “How can the Christian faith be preached in Canada?”

Catholics and Evangelicals agree on the basics of the Christian faith: they share the same beliefs in Christ, in the Trinity, in the nature of God, in what it means to be human and that God created the world, she said. 

“Catholics and Evangelicals share a strong emphasis on the truth,” she said. “Both are interested in truth claims: the Christian teaching is true; it’s not just a nice way to live.”

The Catholic members of the official dialogue include co-chair Bohan, O’Gara, Sr. Susan Mosteller, CSJ, Fr. James Hutton, Brett Salkeld and CCCB ecclesial and interfaith relations senior advisor Jonas Abromaitis.

The EFC participants are Alan Anderson, Rev. Scott Doggart, Freeman, David Guretzki, Victor Shepherd and EFC vice-president of ministry services Aileen Van Ginkel.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.