MAS hosts Christian Unity Night

Dr. Paul Metzger presents his view of interpersonal evangelization

by Br. Peter Tynan, OSB

     On the evening of January 24th the seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary were treated to an experience they do not often have. They had the opportunity to hear a Protestant theologian speak about Christian unity and action in the contemporary world. The occasion was Christian Unity night, and the speaker was Dr. Paul Metzger of Multnomah Biblical Seminary and University in Portland.
      Dr. Metzger spoke about his work with The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins, which is based at Multnomah University. According to Dr. Metzger we are living in a post-Christendom world where culture and the Gospel are often at odds with each other. In such a world Catholics and Evangelicals need to move out of their mutual suspicions and work together at bringing the Gospel to people in new ways. These ways will need to keep in mind that many today are hunger for the Gospel but are scandalized by organized religion. Evangelization must take place at the interpersonal level, according to Metzger.
      Why would a Catholic seminary ask a Protestant theologian to speak? In his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, the late Pope John Paul II reminded the Church that, “Ecumenical dialogue is of essential importance.” Mount Angel Seminary takes this call to work toward Christian unity seriously. The fourth-year theology students take a class dedicated to ecumenism and there is a standing committee for all the seminarians dedicated to promoting Christian unity. The mission of this committee is to help seminarians realize the importance of ecumenism has in the life Church and to give them opportunities to practice it.
      To further this end, on January 24th the ecumenical committee sponsored the gathering at the seminary with members of the local Evangelical community. Dr. Metzger was invited to speak because he has been a leader in ecumenical dialogue between Evangelicals and Catholics. He recently authored an article with Drs. Timothy George and Peter Casarella entitled, “Caritas in Veritate: An Ecumenical Conversation” in Cultural Encounters. He also coauthored the book Exploring Ecclesiology:  An Evangelical and Ecumenical Ecclesiology, with Dr. Brad Harper.
      The gathering began with a reception at the monastery retreat house. The seminarians greeted over a dozen members of the Portland Evangelical community and led them on a short tour of the seminary campus. When asked why he volunteered to help with the event, seminarian Jameson Natwick said, “I want to help our Evangelical brothers and sisters see what authentic Catholic faith looks like. Too often Evangelicals can have an incomplete picture of what our faith is about.” Craig Hanley, a seminarian of Helena, Montana, added, “I would also like to learn as much from my Evangelical brothers and sisters as I can about their faith lives. We too can have an incomplete picture about them.”
      After the reception the guests from the Evangelical community joined the whole seminary community in evening prayer at St. Joseph Chapel. Following evening prayer there was a shared dinner at Aquinas Hall. Here everyone had the opportunity to share in table fellowship with the Evangelical guests.
      At the end of the evening one of the Evangelical guests, Weston Ruter, a graduate of Multnomah University, commented, “This gathering helped me see that Catholics are more biblical and more in touch with Jesus Christ than I first realized. There is much we share in common.” Hopefully, through more gatherings like this, Catholics and Evangelicals can continue to work toward mutual understanding and unity.