500 Years Later: A Conversation Between Catholics and Protestants 

Date Published

October 11, 2017

Home / Blog / 500 Years Later: A Conversation Between Catholics and Protestants 

Published by Calvin Seminary

As a part of a larger series of events and programs planned for Fall 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Calvin Seminary hosted an evening of talks titled “What Can Catholics and Protestants Learn From One Another Today”, bringing together four speakers to discuss the evolving relationship between Catholics and Protestants.

These four speakers, two Protestants and two Catholics, spoke about the ecumenical unity they have observed in their ministry and work between Catholics and Protestants, while also commenting on continued differences.

The speakers shared a range of experiences and expertise on the topic of Catholic/Protestant relations. The two Catholic voices, Jared Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Religion at Hope College and Executive Director of the Saint Benedict Institute, followed by the Most Reverend David John Walkowiak, Bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, began the night. After their remarks Karin Maag, Director of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies spoke, and the evening concluded with Ronald Feenstra, the Academic Dean at Calvin Seminary, as well as participants in two decades of official Roman-Catholic-Reformed Dialogue.

These speakers presented a clear theme for the evening; Catholics and Protestants have worked towards creating a more ecumenical relationship, especially over the last 50 years since Vatican II, and these efforts have paid off. Today it is not unusual to see Catholic and Protestant individuals and churches collaborating and connecting in ways they typically weren’t over the last 500 years. The speakers noted shared beliefs and values between the two sides, around areas such as education and worship, and even around religious beliefs and practices such as the concept of Justification or the observation of the sacraments. They observed how this common ground has created new opportunities for ecumenical work.

The presenters also noted the key differences and divisions between the two sides. While there might be a shared heart for a unified church, theological differences create divisions that will be difficult to overcome. These differences, however, make these conversations worth having. As Ortiz noted, “True unity can only be unity in the truth.”

The evening concluded with the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” and a shared blessing from Jul Medenblik, Calvin Theological Seminary President, and Bishop Walkowiak, an appropriate end to a rich time of shared conversation, reflection, and worship. 

by Matt Cooke, Director of Communications and Enrollment Management


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