The Protestant vs. The Catholic
A new religious studies course will be offered this spring semester entitled “Christian Theology in Ecumenical Dialogue” (RELS 387 RP), to be jointly taught by Dr. Christophe Potworowski and Dr. Archie Spencer.
Spencer is in his 11th year teaching at Trinity Western University in the Religious Studies faculty and the Graduate School of Theology. Potworowski began teaching at Redeemer Pacific College just this September, after teaching at McGill University for 10 years. The two professors are not only colleagues, but good friends. They originally met by chance in 2003 on a bus in Italy, and have stayed in touch ever since.
MARS’ HILL: I’ve always secretly wanted to come to RPC and explore — that’s why I wanted to meet here. I got here early and I was prowling around.
CHRISTOPHE POTWOROWSKI: We gave you an excuse to do that. I’m surprised they let you in because usually we have a rule about this. No Protestants.
MH: I looked really innocent so no one checked my ID at the door. How did this idea of a joint class come about?
ARCHIE SPENCER: We came up with the idea and developed the course together on major themes related to ecumenical discussion between Catholics and evangelicals and the practice of dialogue. For us, the main goal is to enliven and actualize our students towards an ecumenical dialogue that is fruitful and helpful.
MH: That makes sense, the topic of the course also matches the structure of how it’s delivered, and that’s deliberate?
CP: Absolutely, that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve.
MH: How do your two styles complement each other?
AS: He’s more laid back. I’m more of your passionate, in-your-face kind of guy. So that’s going to be an interesting dynamic.
CP: I would say we trust one another. We kid around a lot, but beyond that we trust one another as a guide in this dialogue. I know I can trust him to explain his position in such a way that I can understand it and vice versa. That’s probably the most important experience that we want to communicate to the students, so they can see that this is possible.
MH: I can see the value of that, considering the topic of the course. The dialogue will actually be modelled by a Catholic and a Protestant point of view?
AS: It’s not a debate per se, but we may have a bit of fun with it.
CP: Students will discover that we both love Christ in different ways and each one of us can therefore learn to love Christ more because of the dialogue.
MH: Who is enrolled in the course?
AS: Just over half are RPC students and the other half are from TWU. Students can take this course towards their core requirement for religious studies or as an elective. We encourage students to sign up.
MH: The promotional poster says, “Ecumenical Heavyweights: Spencer vs. Potworowski.” This is especially funny because it’s opposite to your approach; it’s portrayed as a “battle of the professors.”
AS: Exactly. That’s not what it’s about, but it plays up the fun side of us.
CB: You could enter the first class with Rocky music playing, “Eye of the Tiger,” to go with the boxing theme. That might be the last thing people would expect at a RPC/TWU class.
AS: I was thinking more of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC…
CP: It certainly communicates our excitement about this, even though the idea of a battle is not there. I think people realize this when they read the fine print.
MH: Can you elaborate a bit on the concept of ecumenical dialogue?
CP: For example, students can become friends but hit a brick wall because their experience of worship is different, even though they both love Christ. But if you really believe in Christ, it’s not just true for you, it’s true for all. There are students who are really committed to Christian faith and they don’t quite know what to make of their differences. How do we deal with that?
AS: Yes, how does it work when both persons have a grip on the truth from different points of view? The key to this ecumenical dialogue is the friendship aspect. More and more I’ve begun to realize this whole course and experience was born out of a friendship that grew out of ecumenical dialogue we were having in Italy. Those are the roots of this whole discussion.
MH: So this course really means a lot in several different ways. It’s a culmination of your partnership and friendship.
CP: Yes. The whole idea of this course is not just inviting students into a personal friendship that we have, but it’s based on the belief that friendship can exist as an objective category. This is why we are interested in introducing this for dialogue. We believe that friendship is the right way to do dialogue. That’s what we want to propose to students.
MH: To facilitate that, is there anything else you’d like to add?
CP: We’re in it for the money.
AS: In which case, I resign…!
RELS 387: RP Christian Theology in Ecumenical Dialogue
Tues, 6:00 - 9:00 pm - Jan 2013
Good things come in small cottages… sign up for the course today!