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BCM plans faith dialogue

Katie Peralta | Thursday, February 14, 2008

In an effort to foster understanding and discourse between Christian faiths, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), in conjunction with Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry, is planning a Catholic-Protestant Dialogue and reception on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Lounge.

The discussion will feature scholars from two different Christian backgrounds. Offering a Protestant perspective will be Mark Noll, a professor from the history department. Theology professor Lawrence Cunningham will provide a Catholic perspective.

Tim Matovina, another theology professor, will moderate the discussion.

Brett Perkins, director of student resources for Campus Ministry, said the event will be divided roughly into three sections.

Each professor will present a statement of his Church’s current perspective on the current relationship between Catholics and Protestants, followed by a summary of important doctrinal beliefs of their faith and how they differ from that of the other faith. The last portion will be left open to questions.

Perkins said he polled students from Catholic fellowship groups Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) and Four:7 about which issues they wanted the professors to address during their summary of doctrinal beliefs.

“We really want to address what kinds of questions students are asking,” Perkins said, adding that it is important to clarify any misunderstandings between the two faiths.

Allan Thompson, a local minister and member of BCM, said he wants professors to clarify certain issues that might often be misunderstood.

“One main area of difference between the faiths is the role of tradition, the role of scripture, and how the two interact,” said Thompson, who helped plan the event.

Perkins emphasized the importance of understanding the differences and similarities between the two faiths.

“How close are we to being one again?” Perkins said.

Noll addresses that question in his book – “Is the Reformation Over?” – which examines the current state of affairs between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Perkins said the event is a follow-up of the Prayer for Christian Unity events that Campus Ministry sponsored in January, where services were offered at the Basilica and featured leaders of different denominations and different choirs.

But this event, he said, is more scholarly and aimed at dialogue and understanding.

“This is more of an academic setting,” Perkins said.

Perkins and Thompson sent e-mails to students and faculty belonging to Campus Ministry special interest clubs such as ISI and Four:7 to encourage people to attend.

Thompson said BCM seeks to engage students from all faiths. Calling its weekly meeting “The Journey,” BCM aims to focus on Jesus Christ rather than one specific doctrine of a certain faith.

“It’s like a metaphor for entering into a relationship with Jesus and seeing where he might take you,” Thompson said.

Thompson said BCM held a similar event last April.