Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jo Anne Lyons, Sole General Superintendent

In 2008 I reflected on the election of the Rev'd. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon to the general superintendency by the General Conference of The Wesleyan Church.  She was the first (and only, so far) woman to be elected to the general superintendency in TWC.

Dr. Lyon & Dr. Gunter at the Wesleyan 2008 G.C.

It was especially joyous in that her election was on the heals of the 2005 General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, which had just elected the Rev'd. Dr. Nina Gunter as the first female general superintendent for the CotN.  To top it off, Dr. Gunter was at the 2008 G.C., representing the CotN to TWC.

Now, four years later, The Wesleyan Church has decided to move from a board of three general superintendents (for the U.S.), to one, sole general superintendent.  When that resolution was passed, the Conference voted to suspend the rules, which would have meant voting for Dr. Lyon as an incumbent, and, instead, have an open ballot election (meaning that any ordained minister in TWC could be named as the new g.s.).

However, even with this suspension of the rules, Dr. Lyon was (re)elected as the first sole general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church!  -  Congratulations, Dr. Lyon!

I think that it is significant that four short years after having elected the first female g.s., they elected her to be the sole g.s. (i.e., the "head of the denomination").

It should be pointed out that holy orders have ALWAYS been open to women in The Wesleyan Church and in the Church of the Nazarene.  In fact, the Wesleyan/holiness churches were ordaining women long before the "liberal" mainline denominations (e.g., it took the mainline United Methodist Church a quarter of a century to catch up with the Church of the Nazarene on this point).  However, it has taken the Nazarenes and the Wesleyans far too long to catch up with the UMC regarding women in the episcopal role.  Thus, there were some concerns that the delegation may revert to electing a man simply because they would not want a woman as the "head of the denomination."  Of course, the most important thing is that the Church seek the mind of Christ and the will of God, and then follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  -  I believe that they have done that very thing!

Again, congratulations, Dr. Lyon!  May God's rich blessings and anointing be upon you and The Wesleyan Church!

(The news release about the election can be read, here.)


Thomas said...

I have a question about the “leading of the Holy Spirit”…

I certainly would agree that, guided by the Holy Spirit, our knowledge of Christian doctrine and practices can evolve over time. So for example, our understanding of ordination may change over the centuries. The “development of doctrine” is most definitely a principle which I espouse as I do believe that over time the Spirit can lead the Church to a richer and more complete understanding of the faith. So (while I may strongly disagree with the practice of women’s ordination) I can identify with your joy in seeing other denominations coming to an acceptance of women’s ordination and women in the episcopal role. I understand that you see this as a fulfillment of the Spirit moving them to a broader understanding of ordination.

Obviously, considering the fact that these two denominations share so much in common theologically and historically, it is promising to see a consensus reached on something like ordination, which is so essential to understanding the role of ministry and governance in the Church. It definitely brings these two ecclesial bodies closer together. But my question involves a broader ecumenical outlook. More to the point: What is the impact of women’s ordination in relation to other denominations and families of churches outside of your own? Or to put it more directly: If the Spirit really is at work in leading your church to ordain women, then what of those churches which adamantly oppose such ordinations and yet claim the same Spirit’s guidance as their reasoning? You see, of course, that one church may applaud women’s ordination as the work of the Spirit, while another may look to women’s ordination as a serious violation of the Spirit’s will. Eventually something has to give.

I guess as a Catholic I have a different view of ecumenical dialog. Wesleyans may debate other Wesleyans and come to agreement on doctrines and practices amongst themselves; and Lutherans may hash it out amongst other Lutherans; and so on with different groups of Christians. But at some point, all of these little groups have to look around at the other groups and say: “Where has the Spirit lead you?” I’m just afraid that the answers are going to be so varied and incompatible that the cause of ecumenism will simply grind to a halt. What is the end game? How far does the Spirit lead one group so that another group is left unable to see eye-to-eye, claiming the same Spirit as their own guide? Then you have to ask, who got lead the wrong way or by the wrong Spirit?

Todd Stepp said...


Thank you for your comments and questions.

You will have to forgive me for not spending much time on it, now. I plan to write an article (or series) about women's orders that may help explain some of the thinking, here.

I would say, a couple of quick things, which perhaps my future article will work out more fully.

First, to clarify, there has not been "a consensus reached on. . . ordination" between the two denominations. They Wesleyan-holiness movement has always ordained women.

Yes, concerning your point about those who claim the Spirit is leading one way or another. The way that it reads, though, is that you have assumed that the Spirit is not leading in women's orders. Perhaps such churches are mistaken. (In other words, the implication seems to be that, because others believe differently, then we must be mistaken. That is a logical fallacy, seeing that either side could be mistaken.)

Concerning ecumenical views, I would suggest that you, also, look beyond the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly, there are many who agree with Rome, but there are many from various traditions who do not. Admittedly, your ciaricature (wherein little attention is paid to other groups) may be more valid of the early holiness movement, but I think you will find that there is plenty of "looking around" these days with others that do ordain women.

Finally, and this is the "tease," the underlying belief is that women in such ministry is not only Scriptural but apostolic, and where women are not in such ministry, it is a sign of having moved away (in this regard) from apostolicity. - As I said, that is the "tease." I do not intend to explain or defend it in this comment section. I plan to do it later in an article, so you will have to wait.


Thomas said...

You are correct, I certainly am assuming (very firmly and obstinately) that the Spirit is NOT leading to the ordination of women. And that would be my point... Somewhere down the line one side or the other has to give in or else ecumenism stops. We both disagree about ordination and about the will of the Spirit that guides us.

So I guess what you are saying is that eventually the Catholic and Orthodox (and others) will "give in" to the Spirit and ordain women? Will you then give in on homosexual ordination and marriage (as other churches that have gone down this road have done)? I am very much looking forward to see this future post on ordination...

Todd Stepp said...


Ecumenism is necessary precisely because we have differences. To put it another way, if what you say concerning ecumenism is true, then, since neither Protestants nor Roman Catholics have "given in" concerning the role of the bishop of Rome, then ecumenism would have already stopped.

Ecumenism, from Romes point of view, has the goal of everyone else joining the Roman Church and accepting the Pope. Everyone else sees ecumenism a bit differently. (E.g., knowing who we are, we go to our sisters and brothers to learn and contribute to their learning, and to affirm that we are one in the Spirit of Christ, seeking to grow together in our understanding of the faith as the Spirit leads us.) Rome, it seems, does not seek this. Rome, it seems, beleives that they hold the whole truth already. They have no real need to learn and certainly not to change in such a way that would move them closer to others. Rather, the goal is to help others gain a position that is acceptable to Rome, and eventually have them join Rome.

I would only say that the reasons that the Wesleyan-holiness tradition ordains women, again, is not because it ignores Scripture (which may be different from some of the more "liberal" mainline groups). We beleive it to be consistent with Scripture and to be truly apostolic.

More, later.


Thomas said...

To a certain extent you are correct... Rome does see the *final goal* of ecumenism to be that everyone joins with Peter’s Successor. But I think Rome would also not disagree with your own statement that ecumenism is “knowing who we are, we go to our sisters and brothers to learn and contribute to their learning, and to affirm that we are one in the Spirit of Christ, seeking to grow together in our understanding of the faith as the Spirit leads us.”
Rome’s dialog with other ecclesial bodies demonstrates both principles: The joint declaration of Catholics and Lutherans on Justification certainly affirms the statement that you made. Catholic ecumenical dialog does do what you claim ecumenism ought to do. Meanwhile the dialog that is ongoing between Catholics and Orthodox includes hammering out language that deals specifically with the primacy of Rome (which the Orthodox do not outright reject). So I think your description of ecumenism is acceptable to Rome as a process of dialog (a la the Lutherans), but this *process* must have a goal (witness: the Orthodox).
So what I am asking you is: what is your *goal* for ecumenism? You know what Rome’s goal is, but what you described above sounds like a *process* without a goal. Where do you see this going? That is why I asked you, do you envision that one day Catholics and Orthodox (and others) will eventually "give in" to the Spirit and ordain women? The Spirit is a powerful force. Can we hold out indefinitely? Why do you think the two most ancient churches are holding out against the Holy Spirit on this point? In the interest of ecumenism what would you say to these churches that might teach them to think differently? Or, (since ecumenism is a two-way street) what might you learn from our position that would teach you why you may be wrong? You asked me to look beyond the Roman Catholic Church, can you look beyond Wesleyan Church? You see, what you described as a “logical fallacy” works both ways: perhaps I am wrong; but then again, perhaps you are wrong.
So either you guys have some serious connection to the Spirit that has you way beyond Catholics on this point, or you have gone beyond Apostolic teaching. I suppose your upcoming post will set the record straight. ;)

[As usual, I really do appreciate your answers. Thanks for taking the time. I know I'm like an annoying fly that you can't seem to swat away...but you kind of like it too! Go ahead and admit it.]

Todd Stepp said...

Thanks to Keith Kiper for posting the following link on the Wesleyan/Anglican fb page:


Todd Stepp said...


You can't turn the my "logical fallacy" back on me. You were the one making the assertion, the argument that was based on the "logical fallacy;" not me. :0)

I'm sorry, but I expect to be a bit too busy to keep this up, for now. - But I do hope to work on the article in the near future.

Just a quick thought that may clarify a bit (or not) concerning a difference (ecumenicaly) between the CotN & Rome: (from our historical satement) "The Church of the Nazarene,from its beginnings, has confessed itself to be a branch of the 'one, holy, universal, and apostolic' church and has sought to be fiathful to it." ". . . As its own peole, it embraces the peole of God through the ages, those redeemed through Jesus Christ in whatever expression of the one church they may be found."

Also, in our Preamble to our Constitution and Articles of Faith we have this one line that says, ". . .that we may cooperate effectually with other branches of the Church of Jesus Christ in advancing God's kingdom . . ."

This view of THE Church, our place within THE Church, and our relationship with other in THE Church is very different from Romes understanding that the Roman Catholic Church IS THE Church.

As I said, that's all for now. :0)

Thomas said...

Thanks for the time you've given me, Todd. Sorry to bother you so much, but I had one more thing to say...

Just to be clear, I did NOT make a “logical fallacy” argument. I would urge you to re-read my original comment. You are saying that I somehow implied that the Spirit can lead two churches to two different conclusions. You said that it is a “logical fallacy” for me to argue that BOTH churches can be right. And I agree with you! But THAT was precisely my point. Two churches CANNOT be right on this issue when they so starkly disagree. I was arguing AGAINST the logical fallacy to which you refer. If you’ll notice, I even said that at some point these various denominations will have to face that very truth. At some point they will look around and ask: “Where has the Spirit led you?” and their answers will be starkly different. At that point something will have to give – they cannot all be right. That is also why I asked you what will happen when the Catholic and Orthodox refuse to ordain women? We claim to be led by the Spirit and so do you. You cannot sustain this logical fallacy and pretend that everything is hunky-dory. My whole argument here has been the opposite of what you are describing.

So I just want to clearly state that I in no way endorsed the idea that the Spirit can lead two churches in opposite directions. Can I at least get that acknowledgement on the record? Or at least show me where I implied differently and I will clarify for the record?

Todd Stepp said...


The L.F. I was referring to is the perceived implication that is found in your comment. (By identifying it as a perceived implication, I am granting that it may be my reading of your comment and not actually your argument . . .)

The perceived implication that I saw in your statement was that, because the Spirit cannot lead two churches in two different direction, therefore, Wesleyans must be wrong. That seemed to be what you were saying. IF that was what you were saying, then that would be a L.F., because it does not recognize that Rome could be the one who is wrong.

I would agree that ULTIMATELY, the Spirit of God would not lead two groups in opposite directions. But, I would leave open the possibility that during the long process of leading us, we may temporarily be guided in what seems to us to be different direction (particularly in non-moral concerns) due to God's gracious condescension toward us.

What I don't understand is your questioning of what happens when the RC & Orthodox refuse to ordain women; when we see our differences. You say that something has to give. - I would say, this is exactly where we are now on this and a host of other issues. It is not as though, at some point we will find that we disagree and will not give in to the other. That is where we have been. If it were not, there would be no need for "ecumenical dialogue." - These things have and do cause division. The difference is that Rome views it as our being divided from the one, true Church (i.e., Rome). We recognize our differences with others WITHIN the one true Church (i.e., not Rome, but "the people of God through the ages, those redeemed through Jesus Christ in whatever expression of the one church they may be found.").

We recognize that we may err; that we may hold sincere, different opinions on non-essential (nevertheless important) matters. (Though Rome tends not to admit such, or at least has a much longer list of essentials, most other Christians do.)

It means that, we may not have organic union prior to Christ's return, but such does not keep us from loving, accepting, and worshipping with our sisters and brothers in Christ's Church in whatever expression they may be.

This is illustrated in our understanding of the Eucharist. In the Wesleyan tradition (and some others), you need not be a member of the CotN, or TWC, or the UMC to come to the Table. It is Christ's Table, and all who come with faith in Christ are invited to come (whether Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Baptists, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, etc.), because we understand all such beleivers to also be a part of the one Church of Jesus Christ of which we view ourselves as one branch.

As to the Spirit's leading, we would likely say concerning Rome's refusal to ordain women, as you, I think, would say about us, that they are mistaken when they understand their position to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. As has been said by a Nazarene friend of mine, in this regard, for all of Romes claims to apostolic suc., this is one point where they are not apostolic. (That last statement will be explained in the much mentioned, yet unwritten, future article.)

Really got to go. - Todd+

Thomas said...

I think you may have assumed too much about what I was asking in my original comment. Certainly I believe that the Catholic Church is correct. I won’t pretend otherwise. But I did not say “Because we disagree, Catholics MUST be right.” Certainly that would be a logical fallacy, but I did not make that argument. Please do re-read my original post. I was very careful to leave open the question of who is right or wrong.

I would draw your attention to the main body of my questioning: “What is the impact of women’s ordination in relation to other denominations and families of churches outside of your own? Or to put it more directly: If the Spirit really is at work in leading your church to ordain women, then what of those churches which adamantly oppose such ordinations and yet claim the same Spirit’s guidance as their reasoning? You see, of course, that one church may applaud women’s ordination as the work of the Spirit, while another may look to women’s ordination as a serious violation of the Spirit’s will. Eventually something has to give.”

Indeed something must “give” if we are talking about the same Spirit leading to two different conclusions. And that is what I am asking – where do you see this leading? Maybe Catholics will have to “give,” or maybe your churches will have to “give.” I never stated one way or the other which side would be “giving” (that is where you assume too much). I did not say that the Catholic position is the forgone conclusion. I was simply asking how you view the ecumenical challenge of all this? I was not asking in any antagonistic way.

I also said the following: “...at some point, all of these little groups have to look around at the other groups and say: ‘Where has the Spirit lead you?’ I’m just afraid that the answers are going to be so varied and incompatible that the cause of ecumenism will simply grind to a halt. What is the end game?"

Or perhaps you do not view ecumenism as having an end? Perhaps we just go on as divided churches? Perhaps your model of many denominations composing the "church catholic" is your end game? I am just asking honest question...

Again...I did not say, “Catholics are always right! You guys are always wrong!” I left that as an open question.

So does that clear it up? Do you see that I am not arguing a logical fallacy? A was simply asking, in broader ecumenical terms, if you see women’s ordination as a major stumbling block between your churches and the Catholic/Orthodox churches? Do you envision Catholics one day embracing women’s ordination? If the Spirit really is at work here then how do you see this playing out?

Todd Stepp said...

Short answers:

Yes, it was my assumption that was the fallacy.

I don't know about the end game, or where the RCC may end up. My hope is that, if we are right, the RCC will eventually ordain women. I think we have good arguments from Scripture and the nature of apostolicity.

As far as the end game, I am not sure we will ever see one organic unity prior to Christ's return, though I would like to see more organic unity than we currently have.

I will say, as you already know, if you have followed all of my articles, I was in favor of (sent resolutions to our General Assembly for) merger between Nazarenes, Wesleyans and (perhaps) Free Methodists. - What the leaders of these (and other Wesleyan-holiness) churches said was that they felt we could do more for the Kingdom of God without merger. Instead of organic union, they formed the Global Wesleyan Alliance, strengthening our partnership together. That is a measure of unity, but not an organic union.

In any case, I think ecumenism is the attempt to understand and strengthen our connectivity with others in the Christian faith. Where will it lead? Full organic union? Full Communion without organic union? Stronger partnerships? - God, being a God of variety (just look about creation), can certainly use our variety of expressions of the Church. I suppose the question is, what does it mean to be one Church?

Thomas said...

Yes! - "What does it mean to be one Church?" - now there is the start of a lively conversation! Ecclesiology - what is "Church"?. That is the root of all this. (But we'll stop there.)

As we both said earlier, Catholics have a different view of ecumenism. We do see corporate union as the goal, and corporate union must include a role for Rome as head of the Church (in whatever capacity that might be). Whether it is a reachable goal is another question. But I do admire your own attempt to reach fuller union on your own level. Bravo!

I do look forward to your future post on women's ordination. What I have read on the subject has led me to the exact opposite conclusion. But I am anxious to see what evidence you have in support of your own position.

Jodie said...

Interesting debate. stumbled on here trying to find out why the Wesleyan denomination has been changing so much.

I was raised RC. I became a born-again Christian, baptized to show my faith (not attain salvation) by the way of the teachings of a baptist denomination and then attended an evangelical free church for 20 some years. I then have attended two different Wesleyan churches in the last 5 years. I have figured out I am not a wesleyan. It has changed to being more like the catholic church in it's teachings with contemplative prayer and it embraces being ecumenical with other denominations that are different in how salvation is attained such as mainline protestant, RC, episcopal and so forth. I believe that the impact and acceptance of the emergent church movement which accepts and teaches unity thru universalism and ecumenicalism has brought about an acceptance of false teachings that would have never been embraced for the sake of unity. I cannot accept that there are many ways to salvation so I cannot be ecumenical with any that believe otherwise.

I have learned thru this process that I am not arminian, RC, unity driven (for the sake of throwing out the teachings of God's Holy Word), a replacement theology (church has taken the place of Israel) kingdom now follower. I still believe in the literal return of Christ Jesus at anytime.

I also believe that to give into these core beliefs would be going against the leading of the Holy Spirit. It comes down to what one believes is the true teachings of God in totality and not who ordains women or doesn't or whether there are Popes to oversee us or not. I think when one's faith neglects their core beliefs for the sake of unity is when you will see apostasy and the One World Church come into fruition that is spoke about in Revelations. I believe it is close at hand. Not all unity is good.

Todd Stepp said...

First: wow, it seems that the format for commenting has changed overnight. It is interesting. I think I like it, but we will see what blogspot is doing.

Now, for the real "comment."

Thank you, Jodi, for stopping by and for leaving your comment. - I find it interesting at so many different points. Perhaps you will allow me to try to make some clarifications, and, in turn, perhaps you can clarify some things.

First, let me begin with your comment about The Wesleyan Church changing so much. - I am not sure to what you are referring. When you speak of core beliefs, it is quite clear that those have not changed at all. The Wesleyan Church has just come through their General Conference. You can compair their Articles of Religion (their core beliefs) to those held at the formation of The Wesleyan Church, and with their parent groups (viz., The Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness Churches), and I think you will find that there is little essential change. In fact, I think you can look to the original Methodist Articles and the teachings of John Wesley and discover that their is little essential change. - Perhaps it is that you are simply not all that familiar with the core beliefs of The Wesleyan Church, but rather have relied upon the impression that you have gotten from certain local congregation/s.

You say that you have figured out that you are not Wesleyan. - Fair enough.

However, you go on to talk about contemplative prayer being embraced and being ecumenical with other denominations that have different teachings about how salvation is reached. You mention the RC, mainline Protestants and Episcopal, etc. churches.

It is true that The Wesleyan Church is clearly "evangelical" in it's understanding of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. However, do you know that most mainline denominations teach that, as well? In fact, even the RCC, with all of its additional "stuff," has agreed with that statement. It can be found at the bottom of my sidebar in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification that has been made between the RCC, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Methodist Council. (The Wesleyan Church has, for decades been a member of the latter.)- Perhaps it is a matter of whether one uses an altar call? Still, the cooperation has to do with those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior by grace through faith.

As to being ecumenical, such is quite consistent with the Wesleyan tradition. Perhaps a reading of John Wesley's sermon on "A Catholic Spirit" would be helpful. - Still, for The Wesleyan Church, they spend most of their time in close partnership with other Wesleyan-holiness denominations (e.g., they have never been a part of the World Council of Churches; they are not in "dialogue" with any of these other denominations.)

The Wesleyan Church firmly believes that their is one way to salvation, viz., through Jesus Christ.

Cont. . . .


Todd Stepp said...

Cont. . . .

It seems from your comments that you have concerns about the "emergent church." First, such a term is so broad that it cannot be defined. It has been picked up as a "catch all" for stuff that people disagree with. "I disagree with that, lets call it emergent."

It is a term that many find to have been a fad of sorts. Some like the term, others do not. What does emergent mean? - It seems that you think it means an acceptance of universalism. There are many folks who claim to be emergent who would deny that and never own the idea of universalism. The Wesleyan Church certainly does not believe in universalism.

Again, not sure what kind of false teachings you are thinking are being embraced in TWC. Not universalism, and their core beliefs remain firm.

As for contemplative prayer, this sounds much like the kind of thing that has been spread about in recent days by those who seemingly have never read the Psalms or the history of the Church. Often they seem to equate such things with "Eastern Spiritualism," rather than actually seeing what the Bible and the Church has actually practiced. (For example, the Bible clearly calls us to meditate on the Word day and night. That is clearly "meditation" and even contemplative prayer, but it has nothing to do with Eastern meditations, etc.)

You say that you are not Arminian. - Fair enough. However, I have no idea how you connect that with throwing out the teachings of God's Word.

As for the Church (both Jew and Gentile who accept Christ) being the replacement for Israel (the new Israel), have you not read Paul in the New Testament? (E.g., In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile; how about Galatians?) I would be interested in your take on some of his statements.

In any case, such has nothing to do with whether one believes in the literal return of Christ, which The Wesleyan Church clearly does.

As to the teachings of God in totality, I don't think that talking about women's ordination or the Pope in anyway implies that the teachings of God in totality is unimportant. If it does, how so? After all, the teachings of God in totality must include the various teachings, yes?

As to the One World Church in the Book of the Revelation, perhaps you could point me to that. Perhaps a reading of the actual Scripture passages in context (rather than someone's teaching out of context) might be helpful. Perhaps remembering the context of the New Testament would be helpful,too (no denominations back then; Jesus' prayer that we be one. - How is this fight against a "one world church" consistent with Jesus' prayer, and thus His will?) Understand, I am not arguing for the "one world church," I am challenging the popular understanding of some as to what the Book of the Revelation actually says (which is what you say you are interested in, yes; what the Bible actually teaches?).

In any case, The Wesleyan Church could not even make merger happen with its closest Wesleyan-holiness sister denominations, I don't think any idea of a "one world church" is something that one has to worry about with The Wesleyan Church. There is no such move or desire in TWC, certainly not if it means changing their "core beliefs." And they (and I) would agree that "not all unity is good."

Perhaps, I have given you some things to think about; some clarifications. Perhaps, in turn, you cold bring about some of your own clarifications.

Thank you, again, for your comments. I hope to hear from you, again, soon.


Thomas said...

I don't know much about the history of Wesleyan doctrines or whether the Wesleyan Church has "changed" over time - as for that I trust Todd's answer.

Just to clarify though, concerning the Joint Declaration between Catholics and Lutherans on Justification, it is more accurate to say that Catholics agree that "Grace Alone" is what saves us. This has always been the teaching of the Church, and the Joint Declaration seeks to straighten out the misunderstandings between Catholics and Lutherans on this point.

The phrase "Faith Alone" is not how that statement is worded. In fact, the Vatican response to the Declaration says the following: "The Catholic Church maintains, moreover, that the good works of the justified are always the fruit of grace. But at the same time, and without in any way diminishing the totally divine initiative, they are also the fruit of man, justified and interiorly transformed. We can therefore say that eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits."

So there is still the Catholic teaching that our Works, which are done in cooperation with God's Grace, do play a role in justification - so it is by Faith and Works. As James says, "not by faith alone" are we justified.

Todd Stepp said...

Being on vacation and without the JD handy, nevertheless, I would point to these paragraphs as can be found from a link on my sidebar. It is true that these do not use the precise phraseology that I used, but . . .

15. In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: 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 and calling us to good works.

16. All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God’s gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.

17. We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God’s saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.

In anycase, I don't know that it will be helpful in the conversation with Jodi.

Thomas said...

I agree - it may not be helpful with the current conversation... But as a Catholic I don't want anyone left with a false impression of what the Catholic Church has agreed to. The Vatican clarification steers us away from stating that "Faith Alone" is what justifies/saves us. The Vatican statement clearly states that "eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits." So human "merit" is still involved from a Catholic perspective.

The official Vatican response is at this link:


There you will also find this statement:
"The Catholic Church is, however, of the opinion that we cannot yet speak of a consensus such as would eliminate every difference between Catholics and Lutherans in the understanding of justification. The Joint Declaration itself refers to certain of these differences. On some points the positions are, in fact, still divergent. So, on the basis of the agreement already reached on many aspects, the Catholic Church intends to contribute towards overcoming the divergencies that still exist..."

Thomas said...

In other words... The Catholic Church did not agree to the Protestant position any more than the Lutherans agreed to the Catholic position. We simply eliminated false understandings of each other's positions to clarify where we already agree.

Todd Stepp said...

It sounds like a backing away of some of the points in the (now, so called?) Joint Decl. on Just.

Todd Stepp said...

On the other hand, in connection with some of Jodi's concerns, this at least demonstrates that there is not move to give up core beliefs in order to have some "one world church." Rather ecuminism is about clarifying what each group believes and does not believe. Thus, we are better able to understand each other. It clarifies our agreements (as in the Apostles & Nicene Creeds) and our disagreements.

Jodie said...

I am a bit swamped right now but will reply as soon as I can.

I have lots to think about and formulate my reponse on too!


Thomas said...

Yes...I think it is, to a certain extent, a backing away from the Joint Declaration. I mean, certainly the Vatican does still embrace what was said in the Declaration, but they wish to clarify the points of disagreement. It is not as though "Justification" is now solved and we can move on to other doctrines.

From what I have read (and I am by no means an expert) there is always a tension between the OFFICIAL(i.e. Vatican) position on these matters and the position of the "boots on the ground" (those engaged in the actual ecumenical dialog). The Vatican keeps a close eye on these dialogs and clarifies the official position to ensure that Catholic teaching remains...well..."Catholic." Those who dialog on behalf of the Church do have some freedom to explore new ideas and ways of expressing the faith, but the Vatican always reviews and clarifies (and even rejects) whatever document might be produced. Keep in mind that *infallibility* is taken very seriously by Catholics. In no way can the Church retract what was taught by any Council or papal decree. So if "Faith Alone" has been officially rejected (which it has) then by no means does the Joint Declaration change that fact. So I would be very precise in sticking to the language of the joint Declaration without inserting the word "ALONE" where it does not appear in the text (or Scripture for that matter).

I think you are right in pointing out that all of this should alleviate some of Jodie's concerns. In this instance, both sides are being cautious in not giving up their core beliefs.

Todd Stepp said...

From the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justrification" agreed upon by The Lutheran World Federation and The Roman Catholic Church, subsequently Affirmed by The World Methodist Council:

15. . . . "Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not becuase of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."

16. . . . "Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God's gift through the Holy spirit, who works through Word and Sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life."

17. . ."because we are sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way."

25. "We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love, and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it."

From the Annex to the Official Common Statement:

C. "Justification takes place 'by grace alone' (JD nos. 15 and 16), by faith alone; the person is justified 'apart from works' (Rom 3:28; cf. JD no. 25). 'Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts' (Thomas Aquinas, STh II/II 4, 4 ad 3). The working of God's grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12ff). 'As soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit . . .'"