BETHANY, W.Va. – Members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Bethany College’s founding denomination, held an “ecumenical encounter” with members of the Catholic Church last week as part of the International Dialogue Commission. The event took place in Bethany from June 19 to June 24.
The overall goal of the dialogue, which began between the two groups in 1979, is the visible unity between two communions. The groups compared their similarities and differences and identified issues related to the ultimate goal of a common Disciples-Roman Catholic celebration of the Eucharist, according to Rev. Dr. Newell Williams, co-chair of the Dialogue.
The choice to meet at Bethany College was significant, as it was established by Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Disciples of Christ. The participants joined the local Disciples of Christ congregation at the Sunday Lord’s Supper Service held in the Old Meeting House built by Alexander Campbell. Later in the week, the Commission attended Solemn Vespers presided over by Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese, at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. Rev. Thaddaeus Allen, Regional Minister of the Disciples of Christ, also participated in the service with Disciples of Christ leaders and pastors as well as local Catholic ecumenical leaders.
The Disciples co-chair of the Dialogue is Rev. Dr. Williams, President of Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. The Catholic co-chair of the Dialogue is the Most Reverend David L. Ricken, the Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Robert Welsh, President of the Disciples of Christ Council on Christian Unity, was instrumental to the event’s success.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.