Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists Mark 10th Anniversary of Joint Declaration
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will join Catholics and Methodists in Chicago, Illinois on October 1, 2009 in a 10th anniversary celebration of a historic agreement, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).
Leaders of the LWF and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on October 31, 1999, in Augsburg, Germany, after years of theological dialogue. It was affirmed in 2006 by the World Methodist Council.
"The 10th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration provides a joyful occasion for thanking God for our level of agreement on this central doctrine of our Christian faith. The JDDJ is a powerful testimony to what can be achieved when churches remain in dialogue addressing questions that have separated us for centuries," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and LWF president.
The JDDJ declared that the LWF and the Catholic Church had reached a common understanding on justification, agreeing that believers are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. The churches declared that certain 16th century condemnations of each other no longer applied. Interpretations of justification caused disagreement in the church nearly 500 years earlier, which led to the Protestant Reformation.
The JDDJ also said that "by the action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, (sinners) are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life."
"While the JDDJ does not cover everything that Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists teach about justification, and does not resolve all differences, this consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification marks the most significant agreement since the days of the Reformation," said the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations. "Remaining differences are not sufficiently substantial for the 16th century condemnations to continue in force."
The October 1 celebration will be held at Old St. Patrick's Church. A second international observance is to be held October 31 in Germany.
The Chicago celebration will include a service of evening prayer followed by a reception for guests. Hanson and Cardinal Francis George, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are hosting the event. The Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory, archbishop of Atlanta, will deliver the homily. The Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary, will also address the celebration.
Among Methodist leaders present and participating in prayers will be Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church.
Members of the ELCA Conference of Bishops plan to attend the celebration as part of the conference's regular fall meeting October 1-6.
The JDDJ is a part of seminary education and is often cited as a significant achievement in religious history, McCoid said. Promoting education and sharing among members "is a renewed hope for greater understanding among members of our faith traditions," he said.
Hanson added that he hopes the celebration is a time "for renewing our commitment to continue to resolve the issues that still divide us," and he encouraged congregations and members to reach out to each other in faith and in service to others.
Information about the Oct. 1 Chicago JDDJ celebration is at http://www.ELCA.org/ecumenical on the ELCA Web site.