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COOPERATION BETWEEN ROMAN CATHOLICS
AND CONSERVATIVE PROTESTANT
S

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Differences and Agreements between Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants:

At any time over the past five centuries, many "hot" religious topics have been debated. Often, Christians have attempted to preserve the status quo, while secular, medical, political and special interest groups have sought change. Some of these battles have been long settled; others are still in progress. In recent years, we have seen many debates where conservative Christians have attempted to preserve certain traditions, while liberal religious groups, feminists, gays, lesbians, and some scientists, therapists, medical personnel etc have tried to bring about change.

Often, the Roman Catholic church and conservative Protestants (Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals) find themselves on the same side of major "hot" religious topics:
bulletThey both oppose:
bulletWomen's access to the morning-after pill,
bulletAccess to abortion services,
bulletChoice in physician assisted suicide,
bulletTherapeutic and reproductive cloning of humans,
bulletComprehensive sexual education in schools,
bulletEqual rights for gays and lesbians (including the right to marry),
bulletStudent access to condoms in the schools.
bulletBoth agree on many major theological matters, including:
bulletThat human personhood begins at the instant of conception.
bulletThe existence of Heaven and Hell,
bulletThe inerrancy of the Bible,
bulletThe Trinity,
bulletThe Virgin birth of Jesus.
bulletThe Roman Catholic church restricts access of women to most positions of authority and power in the church; Evangelicals hold diverse beliefs in this area. The Southern Baptists recently decided that women are not eligible for ordination. But some other conservative Protestant denominations ordain women and accept them in leadership positions.
bulletThey disagree in two topics: use of birth control by married couples, and capital punishment. The Roman Catholic church is opposed to both. Most Evangelicals believe that birth control usage is a personal matter for each couple to decide, and that the death penalty is the preferred way of dealing with some murderers.

But there exists a great gulf between the two groups on other matters.

Although they share many beliefs and social policies, their theological differences and bitter history of division have made it difficult for Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants to mount joint programs and cooperate on important causes.

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Charles Colson

Chuck Colson was an aide to Richard Nixon's presidency during the times of the Watergate scandal. After being released from prison, Colson formed Prison Fellowship, an Evangelical Christian outreach to convicts. He has been perhaps the most active Evangelical Christian in the promotion of Roman Catholic-Evangelical cooperation. He wrote the foreword to Kieth Fournier's book: "Evangelical Catholics," in which he stated:

"...those who are called of God, whether Catholic or Protestant, are part of the same Body. What they share is a belief in the basics: the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His bodily resurrection, His imminent return, and the authority of His infallible Word. They also share the same mission: presenting Christ as Savior and Lord to a needy world. Those who hold to these truths and act on this commission are evangelical Christians. … It's high time that all of us who are Christians come together regardless of the difference of our confessions and our traditions and make common cause to bring Christian values to bear in our society. When the barbarians are scaling the walls, there is no time for petty quarreling in the camp.... We have much to forgive, much to relearn. But Evangelical Catholics can help us do both so we can band together against the rising tides of secularism which threaten to engulf us." 1

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Billy Graham

Billy Graham is perhaps the best known and loved conservative Christian evangelist in North America. He has long been involved in a close working relationship with the Roman Catholic church. He is perhaps the most influential Protestant involved in the Catholic-Evangelical ecumenical movement: 2
bulletIn 1964, after a meeting with Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, Mr. Graham said: "I feel much closer to Roman Catholic tradition than to some of the more liberal Protestants."
bulletin 1967, he received an honorary degree from a Roman Catholic institution: Belmont Abbey.
bulletIn 1979, he recognized Pope John Paul II as "the moral leader of the world."
bulletIn 1981, during an interview in Christianity Today, he said that one of the most significant changes in Christendom over the previous 25 years was "...the new understanding between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Twenty-five years ago we could hardly speak with each other openly. In our Crusades today, thousands of Catholics feel free to attend. I have preached in Roman Catholic schools, and have even received honorary doctorates from them. this could not have happened 25 years ago." 3
bulletIn 1981, he met the pope for the first time, and was the first Protestant to ever speak at the North American College, a seminary for students from North America at the Vatican.
bulletIn 1983, he advised President Reagan in the decision to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
bulletIn 1990, Dr Graham met with the pope, to discuss Eastern Europe and relations between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics worldwide.
bulletBilly Graham's team generally seeks the cooperation of both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in those urban areas where they have conducted recent campaigns.
bulletRoman Catholics who make a decision for Christ at his meetings are referred back to counselors at their diocese.

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Activities by other Evangelical Leaders:

bulletPromise Keepers, the leading Evangelical Christian men's organization in the United States calls on individuals in all Christian groups to "tear down all denominational barriers" and join together in committing their lives to Jesus.
bulletJack van Impe is arguably the leading Evangelical teleministry devoted to end-times prophecy. He frequently refers to the Roman Catholic church in a positive context on his weekly program.
bulletRobert Schuller, promoter of "Possibility Thinking" also refers to Catholicism positively in his TV program.
bulletThe Charismatic movement straddles both Protestantism and Catholicism. At "The North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization" in 1987, 40,000 Charismatic Christians met. Present were Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and Mainline Christians. The Catholic contingent was the largest of any denomination. 

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References:

  1. K.A. Fournier, "Evangelical Catholics," (1990). This book is out of print but might be obtained through Amazon.com.
  2. John Ashbrook, "Billy Graham's Catholic Connection," at: http://cnview.com/on_line_resources/
  3. "Candid Conversations with the Evangelist," Christianity Today, 1981-JUL-17.

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Copyright 1998 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JUN-5
Latest update: 2004-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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