For nearly 40 years, a group of pastors and lay members from the Louisville Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ have gathered to discuss issues many in the church shy away from. Their commitment to engaging in civil dialogue over both practical and controversial issues have remained, even as other groups formed at the same time have faded.
Yet, for Father Joe Graffis and Rev. Sally McClain the group has helped to identify shared common beliefs and practices, while also giving a safe space to understand different perspectives and ideas. As a result, the group has become a tightly knit group of not just ministry partners who meet between September and May to discuss practical and complex issues, but fellow brothers and sisters who are ministry together in service to Christ. Their efforts will be recognized by the Kentucky Council of Churches as one of three awards for Civil Dialogue to be given at the October 24th banquet at this year's annual assembly.
Relationships that have made a different in their local congregations.
“This is who we are,” McClain said how “the dialogue has created enhanced relationships. Before we were Protestant, we were Catholic. Before we were Catholic, we were Jewish. It is that teaching moment that you have with your individual congregants that helps to break down barriers. It still does that today. People need those false myths addressed.”
What led to the commitment to engaging in civil dialogue?
According to Graffis, the group was one of several formed in the 1970s in response to Vatican II and its push towards increased ecumenism between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominations. This led to the formation of several dialogues between the Roman Catholics and other denominations, including the Disciples of Christ.