Reformed churches sign agreement adopting justification doctrine

| Junno Arocho Esteves | July 12, 2017 | 3 Comments

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Signaling a turning point in ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church, the World Communion of Reformed Churches signed an agreement on a key issue that divided Catholics and Protestants for centuries.

In an ecumenical ceremony July 5 in Wittenberg, Germany, the city where Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” that marked the beginning of the Reformation, the Reformed churches adopted the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

The agreement, which explains how people are justified in God’s eyes and saved by Jesus Christ, was first signed in 1999 by Catholics and Lutherans. The World Methodist Council adopted the doctrine in 2006.

The Reformed Churches represent an estimated 80 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches around the world.

In a statement published July 4, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity referred to the event “as another important milestone on the journey toward the full visible unity of Christians; not yet the end of the road, but a significant stage on the way.”

Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, attended the event along with Father Avelino Gonzalez, a council official from Washington, D.C.

“One of the crucial issues of dissent between the Reformers and the authorities of the Catholic Church in the 16th century is thus being diffused and overcome, making further growth in spiritual and ecclesial communion between the Protestant and Catholic churches possible,” the council said.

By signing the declaration, the statement said, Reformed churches will join with other Christian churches to “find wider and more intensive ways of working together in the service of suffering humanity.”

“In this way, ecumenical progress in dialogue is not merely an academic pursuit of interested experts, but has a positive and practical influence on the way Christians of different confessions live and work together in solidarity and bear common witness to the Gospel in society,” the council said.

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  • Houtex77

    Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
    (Galatians 2:16)

    • OLD JR

      Romans 6:14-16
      14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

      15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Galatians 3:12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
      Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not
      have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”

  • Charles C.

    The comments here and in other places on the Internet help explain why I’m not excited about this joint declaration, either now or at the first signing. Forget for a moment the excitement of the people who created the document, it’s been in existence for almost 18 years and its effect on the man-in-the-pew appears negligible.

    Not surprisingly, the document has received significant criticism from Catholics and Protestants, not least the objections signed by 200 European Protestant theologians. Even the supporters seem to indicate that the value of the document isn’t the resolution of any differences, but that it displays a willingness to work together to start to iron out differences.

    When the failure to resolve any significant areas of disagreement is coupled with the bureaucratic language found so obviously in committees of people speaking the language of academic theologians, the result is a document which has no effect on the common believer.

    Confession and Penance? Indulgences? Whether our sinful leanings are in themselves sins or whether we need to act on them before we are guilty of sin? (If every man has sinful inclinations, and sinful inclinations are sin, and Jesus was a man, does that mean Jesus was a sinner?) Each of these and more, just in the area of justification, remain unanswered.

    I applaud the intent, but am much less than impressed with the content.