Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Major Ecumenical Move: Catholics, Lutherans and Now Methodists Agree About Justification

At the 19th World Methodist Conference meeting in Seoul, South Korea, the denomination took the unprecedented step of joining the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church in signing a joint agreement on the doctrine of justification. It represents a historic and significant development in ecumenism. The story, courtesy of The Christian Post, is here.

Unfortunately, the news report does not give its readers much sense of what these folks are actually agreeing to. For that you'll have to be ready to wade into the lengthy document finalized back in 1999. That 13-page theological presentation can be found over here in the documents of the Roman Curia.

Now, anyone familiar with church history, theological controversy and/or current views of denominational leadership realizes that this joint signing doesn't mean that all (or even the most important) of the barriers between the various Christian confessions are down. Such Reformation hallmarks of sola sciptura, priesthood of the believer, sufficiency of the atonement, and so on still clash with Roman Catholic doctrines of Marianology, purgatory, the role of the sacraments, the authority of the Pope and others. For instance, note the introduction to the documents of the Roman Curia from which the original Lutheran/Catholic justification statement is introduction that clearly underscores the supremacy of the Roman Catholic papacy:

In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors.

No, notwithstanding this remarkable agreement on justification, full ecumenism has quite a ways to go.