An agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches, which settled one of the historic disagreements at the center of the Reformation, was the focus of a special service at Westminster Abbey on October 31, 2017. On this day 500 years ago, Martin Luther kick-started the Reformation by posting his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church—the Schlosskirche—in Wittenberg, Germany. Central to his argument was the theological principle that man can be reconciled to God—justification—through faith alone, rather than through good works, penance, or the buying of indulgences.
“ When the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, you resolved the underlying theological question of 1517, in a decisive moment for all churches in the search for unity and reconciliation,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said during the service in Westminster Abbey.
The 1999 joint declaration (JDDJ) has since been adopted by the World Methodist Council, in July 2006, and by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, in July this year. Last year, at its meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) “welcomed and affirmed” the substance of the JDDJ. The ACC said that it “recognizes that Anglicans and Lutherans share a common understanding of God’s justifying grace . . . that we are accounted righteous and are made righteous before God only by grace through faith because of the merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and not on account of our works or merits.”
Archbishop Justin Welby presented the text of that ACC resolution to the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Revd. Dr. Martin Junge; and the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Bishop Brian Farrell. The act was witnessed by the Revd. Ivan Abrahams, general secretary of the World Methodist Council, and the Revd. Dr. Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
The public presentation of the ACC’s resolution on Reformation Day was a significant step on the journey toward church unity, Dr Junge said. “We are grateful to God that together with Catholic, Methodist and Reformed sisters and brothers, we are witnessing today the affirmation of the substance of the Joint Declaration of Doctrine of Justification by the Anglican Communion. May this moment serve as an important witness on the way of growing unity among our churches.”
The LWF’s assistant general secretary, the Revd. Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka, is responsible for ecumenical relations with the Federation. She expressed her joy that what was originally a bilateral declaration between Lutherans and Catholics, has become a document that is owned by five Christian world communions. “The fact that all the historical Churches of the west have now a shared understanding of justification is a wonderful way to mark the Reformation anniversary,” she said. “What used to divide us, now actually unites us.”
It was a point echoed by Bishop Farrell, who said that “Convergence on this point draws Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Reformed and Anglican Christians into a deeper communion, on the path to the full reconciliation of the Churches as the Lord wishes. We rejoice that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, solemnly signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in 1999, has also been signed by the World Methodist Council in 2006 and, during this Commemoration Year of the Reformation, by the World Communion of Reformed Churches,” the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said in a statement.
“On this very day it is being welcomed and received by the Anglican Communion at a solemn ceremony in Westminster Abbey. On this basis our Christian communions can build an ever closer bond of spiritual consensus and common witness in the service of the Gospel.”
Archbishop Justin asked, “Will we find from God alone the strength and grace to be a united blessing to His world, so that our witness of unity in diversity overcomes our fears of each other? Will we seize afresh in confidence the hope that God who never abandons His church will again reform us, so that the world may see that Jesus came from the Father?”
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation has been marked by churches around the world.
[Anglican Communion News Service]
In a message to Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders, General Conference president Ted Wilson commented, “This is a definite sign of the times, pointing to developments which we have studied in Scripture and talked about for years. We are living in the very end tips of the toes of the statue of Daniel 2. The next huge event is Christ’s second coming. What a time to be alive and focus on the mission of the church of proclaiming Christ and His three angels’ messages entrusted to us by God Himself.
“It is very obvious that we are living in the last days of earth’s history. May God guide us as we proclaim the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 with Christ and His righteousness at the very core of the three angels’ messages and proclaim the fourth angel’s message of Revelation 18 calling people out of Babylon and back to the true worship of God.”