Two Bishops and A Pope

Two Bishops and A Pope

Two Bishops and A Pope

On Friday June 6, the Ursuline Center was honored to host Bishop Marcus Miller, interim bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Bishop George Murry, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. The program, entitled Two Bishops and a Pope, prompted a Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in response to The Joy of the Gospel, the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis. The evening began with a general welcome from Sister Isabel Rudge, OSU, and was followed by individual talks from Bishop Miller and Bishop Murry, mediated by Reverend Bob Bonnot.
 
BishopMurry_BishopMillerThe dialogue aligned with the arrival of Pentecost—the Spirit’s workings in each one of us to reach out to those beyond our own circles and recognize that we are all one. Lutheran Bishop Marcus Miller felt encouraged by the group who had gathered for the event. A crowd of 60, he said, was “no small matter,” evidence that there are people from a variety of backgrounds and faiths who are committed to addressing divisions and finding unity.
 
Bishop Miller shared passages from The Joy of the Gospel about homiletics, evangelization, and awareness of cultural diversity. Even though Bishop Miller comes from a different faith tradition, he found himself absorbed in the Pope’s words and felt as though the Pope was speaking directly to him. The bishop recalled his final moments with his father, a pastor, who passed away in March. When Bishop Miller arrived to pray with his father and anoint him, he discovered the source of his father’s joy: his father understood that he himself was a sinner in need of Jesus’ redemption, and this wisdom enabled his father’s connection with God to grow and be shared with all he served.
 
Beyond Bishop Miller’s personal connections to The Joy of the Gospel, he also believes in its potential to bring about a greater sense of understanding between different faith traditions. Supposedly, one of the key complaints of the 16th century reformers was that the Gospel message was clouded. The bishop identifies this as a myth, and he believes that The Joy of the Gospel shows evidence of clarity and accessibility. More importantly, in the Pope’s living of the Gospel message, his words match his actions.
 
BishopMurryBishop George Murry responded positively to Bishop Miller’s words. He recalled the Pope’s message that each one of us is called to be a missionary disciple. The joyful message of the Gospel gains momentum at the individual level and then spreads throughout the world. Just as the apostles held dear the moment when Jesus touched their hearts, we must also be attuned to how Jesus touches our hearts and share that joy with others.
 
Bishop Murry discussed the inherent challenges of evangelization. A common fear that people experience is disrespecting other people’s faiths. Rather than imposing our own beliefs on other people, however, Bishop Murry encouraged Christians to allow other people into their own “unique experience of Jesus,” then allow them to decide where their faith leads them and respect their decision. In terms of ecumenical dialogue, or communication between churches of different denominations, the first step is to acknowledge differences. Then, once differences have been brought to light, we can reach out to draw connections and invite collaboration.
 
The dialogue with Bishop Miller and Bishop Murry serves as a model of this type of open communication. When the two bishops completed their remarks, they welcomed audience members to partake in the evening’s dialogue, asking questions and address concerns.
 
Questions, for instance, arose about how the two faith communities will take the upcoming 500-year anniversary of the Reformation into account. Bishop Miller responded that people shouldn’t celebrate the occasion but observe it, using it as an opportunity to “take the word ‘broken’ out of our vocabulary.” Members of the audience also asked questions about intercommunion, ordination and the order of ministries, and the debate about being saved by faith or by works. The evening ended with a closing prayer, encouraging all in attendance to continue to break down walls and work towards unity.
 
The Mahoning Valley Association of Churches (MVAC) plans to co-sponsor similar events in the future to honor the covenant between Catholics and Lutherans.
 
Photography courtesy of Georgia Pasternack.
 
 

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