ACCRA, Ghana – The Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue held its third meeting of the seventh phase of dialogue in Millennium City (near Kasoa), Ghana, at the Pentecost Convention Centre of the Church of Pentecost between July 13-18, 2023.
Since its initiation in 1972, this was the first time that the dialogue took place in the Global South, allowing the participants to experience the vivacity of the local Christian Catholic and Pentecostal communities.
Participants in the Dialogue include Catholics appointed by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (DPCU), and Pentecostals appointed by some Classical Pentecostal churches affiliated with the Pentecostal World Fellowship (PWF).
The general theme of the current phase, which started in 2018, is “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of prayer is the law of faith”).
After reflecting on the general topic and discussing “Kerygma/Preaching and Christian Life” (2022), the third session was dedicated to “Worship/Prayer and Christian Life.”
The goal of the Dialogue is to promote mutual respect and understanding in matters of faith and practice. Genuine exchange and frank discussion concerning the positions and practices of the two traditions have been the guiding principles of this bilateral theological dialogue.
Meeting for the first time in Africa, the Dialogue benefitted from local contacts, exchanges and visits.
On Friday, July 14, the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, the Most Reverend Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle met, prayed and had a vibrant exchange with the participants.
On Sunday, July 16, the Dialogue attended a church service at the Pentecost International Worship Centre Atomic-Accra. The members of the Dialogue were hosted by local pastor, Rev. Anthony Mensah and welcomed by the General Secretary of the Church of Pentecost, Rev. Alexander Kumi-Larbi.
The participants had a deeply meaningful guided tour to Elmina Castle, July 17, with its testimony to the Atlantic slave trade, which provided an opportunity to learn about a very painful chapter of human history in which Christians were complicit.
Participants acknowledge with gratitude the cordial and fraternal assistance provided by many members of the Church of Pentecost, chaired by Apostle Eric Kwabena Nyamekye, which hosted us in Ghana.
During the third session, Catholics presented a paper entitled, “Catholic Worship, Prayers and Liturgy,” prepared by Rev. Dr. Paschal C. Mbagwu.
The Pentecostal paper, entitled, “Worship and Prayer: A Pentecostal Perspective,” was prepared by Rev. Prof. Jacqueline N. Grey.
Morning and evening prayers each day were led alternately by Catholics and Pentecostals.
Co-chairs of the Dialogue are the Most Reverend Joseph Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and Rev. Prof. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. Professor of Church History and Ecumenics, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. They were assisted by Rev. David Wells, Chair of the PWF Christian Unity Commission, as well as by Rev. David Cole, Liaison to the Greater Christian Community for the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, and by Msgr. Juan Usma Gómez, DPCU, who served as co-secretaries.
According to Bishop Bambera, “Pope Francis’ message for the 50th anniversary of the Dialogue (Rome 2022), has resonated throughout this week: ‘One thing is certain. Unity is not chiefly the result of our activity, but a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in the journeying.’ The Dialogue’s meeting in Ghana, recognizing the global nature of the work of Christian unity and highlighting the depth of Christian faith of the African continent, has been a powerful reminder to us all of the challenges and blessings of the work before us. The path of unity, as Pope Francis reminds us, is not the path of proselytism or uniformity. It lies in journeying together. The path of unity most clearly emerges when each of us continues to grow in our mutual respect for one another, as is so evidenced in our Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue.”
Prof. Robeck noted, “By bringing the dialogue to Accra, Ghana this year, we have taken it to the global South, where the majority of Christians now live. This move enabled the delegates to participate in a vital Pentecostal worship service together among these growing churches. It also enabled us to hear something of the slave trade that ravaged the African continent. In the midst of all these things, the Church of Pentecost Convention Centre offered gracious hospitality on its beautiful campus in Millennium City. Rev. Opoku Onyinah, immediate past Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, continues to be an active member of our dialogue.”
The last meeting of the Dialogue was in July 2022 in Rome, for its 50th anniversary.