Vienna, Austria (June 27, 2008)

The International Commission for Dialogue between the Disciples of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church held its final meeting of the fourth phase of its dialogue at the Abbey of Klosterneuburg, outside of Vienna, on June 23-27, 2008. The topic of this session was “The Priesthood of Christ in Church and Ministry.”

Three major presentations helped to focus the Commission’s discussion. Dr. Merryl Blair, Professor at the Churches of Christ Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, presented a Bible study, “According to the Order of Melchizedek: Hebrews 7 and the Priesthood of Christ;” and, two papers on the theme, “The Priesthood of Christ in Church and Ministry” – one by Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, Blackfriars in Cambridge, England, offering a Roman Catholic perspective, and the second by Dr. James Duke, Professor at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, Texas, offering a Disciples perspective.

From its dialogue, the Commission prepared a document that brought together the wide-ranging issues discussed into the three areas of general agreements, disagreements, and issues for further consideration. The dialogue anticipates producing an agreed statement in the coming year that will bring together the work of the five sessions of this phase of its dialogue on the overall theme, “The Presence of Christ in the Church, with special reference to the Eucharist.” The Commission sees its work as a contribution toward realizing the dialogue’s long-range goal of full visible unity in one faith, one eucharistic fellowship, and common life in Christ.

This session of the dialogue also engaged in a conversation reflecting on bilateral dialogues in the wider context and understanding the ecumenical movement. Two documents served as background to this exchange: Saving Ecumenism from Itself by Avery Cardinal Dulles, and a report from the Ninth Forum on International Bilateral Dialogues held in Breklum, Germany, in March 2008.

The Most Rev. Basil Meeking (Catholic) replaced Archbishop Daniel Buechlein as the Catholic co-chair for this session. As a member of the International Commission for Dialogue between Disciples of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church from its beginning in 1977, Bishop Meeking stated,

“The topic of Jesus Christ the Priest offered the dialogue a renewed focus and an occasion of getting its second wind after thirty years. It also responds to Pope Benedict’s call to separated Christians to a new effort of common witness which must be based on a sound Christology and integrity of doctrine.”

Dr. William Tabbernee (Disciples), co-chair of the Commission, affirmed the importance of the members of the dialogue spending significant time together for prayer and worship as well as discussion.

“Especially when dealing with a topic such as ‘The Priesthood of Christ in Church and Ministry,’ the offering of prayer and praise to God is an essential component of our work,” he said.

Members of the dialogue team include:

For Disciples of Christ: The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee (co-chair), the Rev. Dr. Merryl Blair, the Rev. Dr. James Duke, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, the Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis, the Rev. Dr. Kay Northcutt, the Rev. Dr. David Thompson, and the Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh (co-secretary);

For Catholics: the Most Rev. Basil Meeking (co-chair), the Rt. Rev. Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, Fr. Aidan Nichols, Dr. Margaret O’Gara, Dr. Lawrence J. Welch, Dr. Robert Louis Wilken, and Fr. Gosbert Byamungu (co-secretary).

The Council on Christian Unity is the ecumenical office of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Our mission is to carry out the ecumenical witness that is our call as Disciples of Christ.