Thursday, October 1, 2009

Methodists, Lutherans & Catholics Celebrate Justification

According to an article by the United Methodist News Service (here), Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics are gathering today in Chicago to celebrate the landmark signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on Oct. 1, 1999.

This historic agreement was immediately hailed by the World Methodist Council. A statement declaring fundamental agreement between Methodists and the Lutheran-Catholic statement was drafted by the Rev'd. Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, British Methodist and Professor of Christian Theology at Duke, and United Methodist Bishop Walter Klaiber and circulated twice to all WMC denominations. After a unanimous vote by the World Methodist Council, including delegates from all seven denominational members in the U.S. (viz., AME, AMEZ, CME, Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodist, UMC & The Wesleyan Church), the statement was signed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Methodist Council at a meeting of the WMC in Seoul on July 23, 2006.

I attempted to put together a joint service with local Roman Catholics & Lutherans last year, during the Week of Christian Unity. We were looking forward to a time of representatives speaking of the Joint Declaration from each of the three perspectives, followed by a joint service of prayer. - Unfortunately, some internal issues caused us to back off of the plans at that time. Now, with the issues surrounding this years Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, plans to put together such a service locally are, once again, in question.

Concerning the Chicago meeting, it seems that the United Methodist Church has taken upon themselves the sole mantel of Methodism. Perhaps it is simply a matter of denominational reporting. - I hope. - Or, perhaps it is simply an outflow of the new full communion agreement between the UMC & the ELCA. Whatever the case, it would be truly unfortunate if the other six U.S. denominational members of the World Methodist Council were not included in the celebration. After all, the agreement, while likely officially endorsed by the UMC, nevertheless, was an agreement between the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Methodist Council.

This gathering, and the historic agreement, is worth celebrating by all who are apart of the RCC or any member of the LWF or WMC denominations.

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