Sunday, July 23, 2006

Methodists sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification From the Christian Post: Reconciliation, which the quinquennial conference is centered on this year, largely characterizes the Wesley movement. While a Protestant, Wesley was able to understand the Roman Catholic Church. “He was definitely a Protestant but he was able to bring both traditions (Protestantism and Catholicism) together,” noted the Rev. Lyle Pointer, a member of the Church of the Nazarene from the United States. “His theology is in many ways an amalgamation, though unique in itself, gathering together two separate traditions and helping us to embrace justification by faith from a Protestant standpoint but also have an understanding of sanctification … from the Catholic point of view.” With a reconciliatory approach, Methodists/Wesleyan family members will be adding their signature to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, what Dr. George H. Freeman, general secretary of the World Methodist Council, called “historic.” On Sunday, they will become the “third partner” to the milestone declaration signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999. “This means that this makes it possible for other partners to join in those kinds of [ecumenical] conversations and help bring people closer together,” commented Freeman. ... From John Allen's All Things Catholic column: Sometimes professional ecumenists, whose life’s work is reconciliation among the divided branches of the Christian family, are jokingly referred to as “ecu-maniacs.” The quip is usually one part satire, and one part grudging respect.

In fact, given the experience of recent years -- including ongoing tensions with the Orthodox over Ukraine and accusations of proselytism, and with the Anglicans and other Western churches over women’s ordination and homosexuality -- perhaps one does have to be just slightly dreamy to cling to the vision of full, structural unity among all Christians as anything other than an end-time objective.

Yet the ecumenists continue to plug away, exhibiting a rather remarkable confidence that everything will sort itself out in God’s time.

This week, the ecumenists scored an impressive victory in Seoul, South Korea, where the World Methodist Conference, representing 76 denominations with roots in the Methodist movement, voted on July 18 to join an agreement on the doctrine of justification first signed by the Catholic church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1998.

A signing ceremony will take place on Monday.

The heart of the agreement is this key sentence: “By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works.” In one stroke, it seems to place Catholics and Protestants on the same page in terms of resolving the old “faith versus works” debate.

The Vatican official in charge of ecumenism at the time, Australian Cardinal Edward Cassidy, said the agreement “virtually resolves a long-disputed question at the close of the twentieth century.”


Please read the Joint Declaration.

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